Easily one of the best golfers of his generation, former world No. 1 Lee Westwood has somehow never been able to win a major championship. If we’re being honest, he’s probably the greatest player in history never to capture a victory at The Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open, or The Open Championship, although Colin Montgomerie fans might have something to say about that.
But no matter where Westwood falls on that particular list, if the 48-year-old Englishman doesn’t win The Open Championship this week in his home country at Royal St. George’s (where he doesn’t have the greatest track record), he’ll sit alone atop a list on which nobody wants to be No. 1, that being the list of players with the most major championship starts without a victory. With 87 major championship starts, Westwood is currently tied at the top with Jay Haas.
Lee Westwood played his first major at The Open Championship in 1995
The 2021 edition of The Open Championship will be Westwood’s 88th start in a major championship. His first major start came as a 22-year-old in 1995 at The Open at St. Andrews, which was won by John Daly, who finished at 6-under for the week before famously beating Costantino Rocca in an epic playoff. Westwood was just five back of the lead heading into the weekend at 1-under but a disastrous third-round 82 did him in and he finished the week tied for 96th at 11-over.
Since then, Westwood has made 86 starts in major championships, and while he’s been in contention on numerous occasions, he’s never been able to get over the hump.
He has 19 top-10 finishes in 87 major championship starts
Again, Westwood has certainly given himself plenty of chances to win a major championship.
At the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, he held the lead heading into the back nine of the final round but finished one shot out of the famous playoff between Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate. Perhaps his best chance came at The Open Championship in 2009 at Turnberry, where he held the lead with four to play but bogeyed the 15th and 16th holes and missed out on the playoff between Tom Watson and Stewart Cink by a single stroke.
In 2010 at The Masters, Westwood held a one-stroke lead after 54 holes but shot a 75 in the final round to finish three strokes behind Phil Mickelson. He took a two-stroke lead into the final round of The Open Championship in 2013 at Muirfield but again shot 75 in the final round and finished four back of Mickelson, who shot a brilliant 66. Westwood again had a chance to win The Masters in 2016 when Jordan Spieth collapsed, but instead watched as his playing partner for the final round, Danny Willett, slipped on the green jacket.
In total, Westwood has recorded 19 top-10 finishes in major championships, a dozen of which were in the top five, including a T-4 at The Open Championship in 2019 at Royal Portrush.
Westwood missed the cut the previous two times he played The Open Championship at Royal St. George’s
This will be the third time Westwood has teed it up at The Open Championship at Royal St. George’s, which is hosting the event for the 15th time. The club was set to host last year but The Open was canceled due to COVID-19.
If Westwood, who currently sits in the No. 29 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking, wants to avoid becoming the player with the most major starts without a victory, he’ll certainly have to play better than he did in his previous two appearances at Royal St. George’s. In 2003, Westwood shot 76-75 over the first two days and missed the cut by a stroke. Eight years later, he shot 71-73 in the first two rounds and again missed the weekend by a single shot.
While a victory for Westwood this week seems unlikely, the beauty of golf is that anything can happen any given week. And he has played solid golf this year, finishing as the runner-up in both the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship. But he didn’t fare quite as well at the majors. After missing the cut at The Masters, he tied for 71st at the PGA Championship and then tied for 46th at the U.S. Open.
Westwood takes his 88th shot at a major beginning Thursday and will play the first two rounds of the 2021 edition of The Open Championship with Stewart Cink and Martin Kaymer.