Westwood knocking on the door again, but can he finally open it?

By: samjack


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ó Almost all signs point to Lee Westwood not winning THE PLAYERS Championship.
ē Heís 0-for-America in the last 12 years.
ē An Brit hasnít won this tournament in more than two decades.
ē Heís 0-for-51 in major championships and while this isnít a major, itís a major deal.
ē Seventeen of the 28 winners of THE PLAYERS Championship have trailed going into the final round.
ē Heís Lee Westwood and this is what he does. He teases us. He tempts us. Heís lures us in with the charming accent and a personality to match.
Not that any of this matters to Westwood, of course. Just a month ago, he actually cracked a smile and a joke in his post-round press conference after the final round of the Masters, even though he had the Green Jacket stolen from him.
Who does that? A guy who thinks not winning a golf tournament isnít the worst thing in the world, thatís who. Maybe it was because he had it stolen, too.
"No, I donít feel any pressure," said Westwood, who shot a 2-under 70 Saturday to take a one-shot lead to the final round at TPC Sawgrass. "The only pressure is what you put on yourself, and I donít really put any pressure on myself to win here again.
"The only thing I try to do is perform as well as I know I can perform and peak at the right times for the big events. So far this year Iíve managed to do it two times in a row, so Iím not saying it wouldnít be nice to win again over here, but itís not something I put pressure on myself to do."
Westwood is certainly right about his play. Heís the first player in 33 years to own the 54-hole lead at the Masters and THE PLAYERS in the same year. Heís also extremely comfortable with having the bulls-eye on his back, even if he has to keep getting up to dust himself off.
"Iím just really pleased with myself that I keep knocking on the door and getting in position," Westwood said. "Some of the golf Iím playing in some of the big tournaments is great stuff."
It was only a month ago that Westwood already had one arm in that Green Jacket. He shot 71 in the final round; Mickelson 67. Westwood didnít do much wrong that Sunday, but he took plenty away from it and here he is again, hoping not to learn one more time.
"I spent a couple weeks afterwards reflecting on it, how close Iíd come," Westwood said. "I learned plenty of things about what to do at the right times and where my game needs to improve and learned a lot of stuff about myself. Thatís what experiences like that are all about."
Adam Scott knows what those experiences are like, too. He had a world of talent and expectation. He was going to be the next Tiger Woods. He was also one of the players who led THE PLAYERS going into Sunday and managed to hang on to win in 2004, despite hitting his approach shot into the water on the 72nd hole.
"Itís really tough [to keep the lead Sunday] because itís a course that rewards good golf in a big way and if you struggle itís easy to make bogeys," Scott said. "If youíre in the lead and you get a bit nervous and defensive, bogeys can come quick."
Late in Saturdayís round Westwood sure didnít look nervous, even as he pushed his tee shot on the 18th hole to the right and his ball came to rest in a storm drain. Westwood took his drop, hit under one branch, over a tree and made his par.
"I think when youíre playing well you donít really see the penalties," Westwood said. "You probably shouldnít. You should just see the middle of the fairway and the flag."
Despite his Masters heartache, Westwood continues to do just that. See the flag. Now he just hopes he can see the finish.
"It was nice to get back in the saddle so quickly," Westwood said. "Iíve got thoughts of the Masters fresh in my mind. I played pretty well the last day there, and if I had just done a couple of things slightly different at the right times, maybe the result would have been different."
Maybe this time it will be.

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