PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — With apologies to a few fairly good occasions within the United Arab Emirates, Lee Westwood is on the verge of the most important victory of a protracted profession that has seen him win everywhere in the world.
There are nonetheless 18 holes to go. Plus, he is obtained to stare at Bryson DeChambeau’s biceps for one more four-plus hours on Sunday.
However Westwood has given himself a 2-shot benefit heading into the ultimate spherical of the Gamers Championship. A victory at golf’s so-called “fifth main” can be as standard round this sport as within the pubs of his native Worksop, England.
In 2020, at age 47, Westwood was the oldest winner of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai. He received final 12 months in Abu Dhabi and captured the season-ending Dubai World Championship in 2009.
He has performed on 10 European Ryder Cup groups; he is been on the successful group seven occasions. He has earned 23 factors and being named captain is in his close to future.
He has by no means received a serious championship. He has by no means received a World Golf Championship occasion. He has by no means received Europe’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship.
“Undoubtedly,” he stated when requested if the Gamers can be tops in his profession. “It will be the most important event I’ve ever received.”
There’s some irony in all this. A decade in the past, Westwood skipped the Gamers — he was ranked No. 1 on the planet on the time. He was not a member of the PGA Tour on the time, as a substitute taking part in totally on the European Tour. It was seen then as a snub to the PGA Tour, skipping its marquee occasion as a result of he didn’t need to journey to the US for only one event.
That was a special time. And now, Westwood is in a special place.
“I do not like to match the Lee Westwood of 10 years in the past or 20 years in the past to the Lee Westwood of right now,” he stated Saturday after a third-round 68 at TPC Sawgrass noticed him take a 2-shot lead over DeChambeau and a 3-shot benefit over Justin Thomas and Doug Ghim.
“I am definitely having as a lot enjoyable on the golf course as I’ve ever had. That in all probability helps me play some nice golf.”
Per week in the past, he took DeChambeau to the 18th gap on the Bay Hill Membership, lastly falling a shot brief when the long-hitting U.S. Open champion drained a nervy putt for a 1-shot victory on the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The 20-year distinction in age or the sizable size distinction off the tee in comparison with DeChambeau did not trouble Westwood. He has careworn he’s merely having fun with the method and never focusing so closely on the outcomes.
“I feel Helen is an enormous a part of it,” DeChambeau stated, referring to Westwood’s caddie and fiancée, Helen Storey. “She’s protecting him regular and down to earth. She’s a rock. Retains his thoughts centered on the proper issues. She’s been superior for him. And that is one in every of his secret weapons, I feel.”
Storey has been his caddie practically full time since 2018 — he has sometimes used his son, Sam — and the partnership has produced some good outcomes. Westwood is now ranked thirty first on the planet, the very best he has been since 2014.
“I feel at my stage of my profession there’s not so much a caddie can inform me,” he stated. “However, clearly, Helen will get me in a incredible temper on the market. Psychologically, she may help me and say the issues that I want to listen to. She helps me in that facet an immeasurable quantity.”
Westwood remained affected person Saturday after making 9 straight pars to start out the spherical. He then made birdies on the tenth, twelfth, sixteenth and seventeenth holes. He had no bogeys and goes into one other Sunday on heart stage. The massive stage, although, is the place the issues lie.
He has 25 European Tour wins, which ranks eighth. He has 44 skilled wins. However he additionally has by no means received a serious regardless of 9 top-10 finishes, together with 12 top-5s.
In 2008, when Tiger Woods — on a damaged leg — made a birdie putt on the 72nd gap to drive a playoff with Rocco Mediate, Westwood was the forgotten character in all that. He missed a putt proper earlier than Woods rolled in his that might have gotten Westwood within the Monday playoff. In 2009, when 59-year-old Tom Watson practically received the Open earlier than shedding in additional holes to Stewart Cink, it was Westwood who missed out on the playoff by a single shot. In 2010, when Phil Mickelson hit his memorable shot by means of the timber on the thirteenth en path to a Masters win, it was Westwood who completed second.
Westwood wouldn’t go as far as to say successful on Sunday can be equal to successful a serious.
“That is such a prestigious title and an enormous event to win,” he stated.
At age 47, although, it could be extremely candy.