GULLANE, Scotland (AP) — They urged him along — in the proper British manner, of course — as Lee Westwood gingerly made his way Friday around the baked links of Muirfield. Nothing to get overly excited about, because it was only the second round of the British Open and this, after all, was an act they had seen before.
Westwood didn't seem terribly excited himself, perhaps because he understands only too well what trouble lies ahead. Muirfield, with its slick greens and nasty rough, will be a treacherous place this weekend with potential disaster lurking on every shot.
Still, the people in the grandstands quietly pulling for Westwood had to ponder the possibilities. So did Westwood himself after a 68 that left him just a shot off the lead midway through the Open.
After a year where British athletes have made breakthroughs on the grass at Wimbledon and in the hills of France, why not? In a year where a Brit is the champion of the other Open they hold across the pond, why not one at home where the game itself was invented?
Why not, indeed.
"There's definitely a feel-good factor in Britain," Westwood conceded.
No matter that this Englishman now lives in Florida, where Westwood moved his family during the offseason so he could sharpen his game and prolong his career. Instead of toiling in the rain in his home country he does his work at a swanky country club among other expatriate players in West Palm Beach.
But he's still as British as fish and chips and this still is his national championship. To say he's desperate to win it — or any major championship — might be a stretch, but he's getting to the point in his career where there won't be as many chances.
"I love playing The Open Championship," Westwood said. "This is the biggest tournament of the year for me, being a Brit, and it being played in Britain. And why not enjoy it out there? It's tough for everybody."
His reign didn't last long and is by now largely forgotten, but Westwood was once the No. 1 player in the world, replacing Tiger Woods at the top a few years back when Woods was still sorting out problems that had nothing to do with golf. Westwood still holds a title of sorts — the mantle as the best player never to have won a major — going 61 major championships now without hoisting one claret jug or trying on one green jacket.
He's been awfully good for a long time, winning 39 times around the world and gaining a reputation as one of the best ball strikers around. But his short game has kept him from winning even more, especially in the big tournaments where the greens are slick and it takes a crisp touch and strong nerves to survive.