The Open 2013: Lee Westwood dares to dream of major title

By Rob HodgettsBBC Sport at Muirfield
The Open 2013: Lee Westwood takes a two shot lead into the final round

Lee Westwood will allow himself to dream of lifting the Claret Jug before knuckling down for a final gruelling 18 holes at Muirfield that could define his career.

Westwood cuts as relaxed a figure as you will see this close to achieving his dream of a major title. And it is that control of his emotions that saw him stare down Tiger Woods in a third-day duel to take a two-shot lead into Sunday's finale.

Impassive behind his wrap-around shades, as much to deal with the glare of his vivid orange T-shirt as the Scottish sun, Westwood took the rough with the smooth in Saturday's penultimate group with Woods.

The only show of emotion was a friendly fist pump after holing an unlikely long putt from off the green for an eagle on the fifth.

The straight-talking Englishman, with a good line in dry asides, was asked afterwards how he will deal with the pressure of sitting on the Open lead overnight.

"I'm not in a high-pressure situation because I'm going to go have dinner, and I'm so good with a knife and fork now that I don't feel any pressure at all," he said.

"I'll think about winning the Open Championship at some stage, I'm sure. I don't see anything wrong with that, picture yourself holding the Claret Jug and seeing your name at the top of the leaderboard.

"When it comes to tee-off, I should be in the same frame of mind as I was on Saturday. I felt nice and calm out there and in control of what I was doing."

Westwood has twice risen to world number one, topped the European rankings twice and is an eight-time stalwart of the European Ryder Cup team. He has also won 40 times around the world. But the one thing missing from his CV is a major title.

However, he says it wouldn't be the end of the world if he gets to the end of his career without a major. But at 40, the clock is ticking and the uber laid-back demeanour is almost a defence mechanism.

He believes his experience in 61 previous majors, which includes seven top-three finishes in the past five years, has taught him the right approach.

At the Masters in 2010, Westwood led going into the final round but was eclipsed by some Phil Mickelson magic to lose by one.

And he had a golden chance to win the Open at Turnberry in 2009. Thinking he needed to birdie the last, he took a run at his putt and saw it race 10 feet past. He missed the one coming back as well, to finish outside the play-off by one shot.

"I've had lots of chances, sometimes I've played well, other times I've played not too well, although I can't remember playing that poorly," he said.

"Obviously I had a chance at Turnberry. I messed up a bit. That's just getting out of the zone, worrying about what other people were doing and not focusing on my own game.

"So even though I haven't won a major, I know what it takes to win one. It's just a case of going out there and having the confidence in my game, which I've got."

While Westwood dearly wants to win a major, Woods, you sense, needs to.

The world number one has been marooned on 14 majors for five years now, and with each passing tournament, the doubt grows that he will complete his life's work and surpass Jack Nicklaus's record of 18.

Woods, who has never won a major when trailing going into the final day, has also been close in recent years after bouncing back from off-course scandal, injury and swing changes.

In his 16 majors since his last win - the 2008 US Open - he has finished in the top four six times. The problem recently has been getting close enough to mount meaningful final-day challenges.

But only two shots adrift, and with only one player in front of him, Woods is in touching distance of relaunching his major quest.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge of it," he said. "I just need to keep putting myself there and eventually I'll get some."

But Woods and Westwood are not the only story, especially at a course as exacting as Muirfield where one small slip can spell disaster.

American Hunter Mahan, who is in a share of second and has the same coach - Sean Foley - as Woods and Westwood, is also chasing a first major title. Victory would serve as redemption in Britain for a flunked chip that handed Europe the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in 2010.

Three strokes adrift is Masters champion Adam Scott. He blew four shots in as many holes to gift Ernie Els victory 12 months ago, and will be hoping to turn the tables this year. Els came from six back to win at Lytham, which brings 16 other players into the equation.

But Westwood knows he is under pressure to finally deliver. The biggest expectation, however, comes from himself.

"I don't really live my life outside in," he said. "I don't live it and run it according to what other people think. I live it the other way around, so I have my own ideas and my own dreams and my own plans."

One of which is swigging something refreshing out of the Claret Jug on Sunday.