Lee Westwood’s Open quest: Honoured by longevity record and set for tough driving test

The Englishman is expecting Royal St George’s to reward straight-driving this week.

Three straight drivers to back

Lee Westwood each way at 66/1

Matthew Fitzpatrick each way at 35/1

Webb Simpson each way at 60/1

Life is often about your lens.

Lee Westwood certainly thinks so.

This week he will play his 88th Major Championship and, should he not win, he will pass Jay Haas as the golfer who has played the most of them without ever winning.

Reminded of this stat ahead of the first round of the 149th Open at Royal St George's - and asked if he carded about it - he responded: "I do care about that. It's nice, that record.

"It shows I've been a good player for a long, long time. There's not many players who have played in as many Majors as me."

That experience makes him an astute judge of a course and this week he faces a test that he's struggled with in the past.

Indeed, he's played it twice, never made the cut and only once broken 73. Those memories made him apprehensive ahead of his arrival this week, but he revealed that he's been pleasantly surprised.

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"Kind of had a bit of a mental block in my head that I didn't like the golf course, but played it yesterday and really enjoyed it," he said.

"I couldn't really remember it too much, probably because I didn't have that much experience of playing on it after the early departures.

"But first impressions? Loved the way it was set up."

The test from the tee looks likely to be key this week and Westwood provided shrewd analysis.

"Obviously nowadays if you hit the ball a long way, that's an advantage, but it's only an advantage around here if you hit it straight, as well.

"I don't think this is one of those golf courses that you can overpower. You can only overpower it with a straight shot. You can't hit it in the rough and play it, not the way they've set it up.

"The fairways are softer than they were last time. I spoke to Martin Slumbers on Monday evening, and he said they're probably going to water some of the fairways to stop that happening, as well."

He later confirmed that he believed that the watering would take place if the forecast sunny weather threatened to introduce a fiery element following the downpours earlier in the week and long-term wet conditions in the area.

He also explained: "You can't have really bouncy fairways carrying it off into rough that's this high that you're hacking out of.

"This course was laid down with the undulating fairways and kicks were designed to go into the rough where you'd have a shot but it would be a flying lie and you'd have to judge that.

"It wasn't designed to land in the fairways and go into rough where you're hacking out with lob wedge.

"Obviously if you don't have the thick rough and you have the flying distance with the distance players are hitting nowadays, they're so far down the hole that they're going in with a sand wedge or a lob wedge.

"So they're having to combat the development in equipment with the long rough, but that means to let the course play its true way, so you've got to soften the fairways."

His words further establish the growing sense that this week hitting the short grass will be key from the tee - even Bryson DeChambeau acknowledges as much.

Westwood remains one of the finest drivers of the ball in the world so the pleasant surprises might not yet be done with.

Westwood on the course

"I think the hardest part about this week could be adjusting to the greens. They seemed quite slow yesterday. I don't know how fast they're planning on getting them, but I left a lot of putts short and in the middle. That would be kind of frustrating as the week goes on if I don't start to get it to the hole.

"It's a pretty straightforward golf course. It kind of tells you where to hit it. There's a couple of fairways where it barrels off. The first, I hit a good tee shot, what I thought was a good tee shot and it was in the right-hand semi. The 17th tends to be a little bit like that and 12 does, as well. But other than that, it's a pretty fair golf course."

Westwood on growing old gracefully

"I think we're from a generation that's had the benefit of sports medicine and things like that, maybe a little bit more analytical and knowing what's going on.

"Tiger Woods came on the scene and everybody took that a little bit more seriously mid to late '90s, and I think all the other players that wanted to get ahead of the game looked to him and put some effort in.

"You're seeing the benefits of that now. It's not a quick-fix thing. This is a long-term thing with the likes of myself and Phil, Stewart Cink. Look at Bernhard Langer. He's playing well into his 60s because he's looked after himself 30 years ago, not because he started going in the gym three weeks ago.

"My generation are now reaping the benefits of the hard work for the last 20 years, analysing movements in the swing and working on injury prevention to those parts of the body that get injured.

"I think when you get to our age, we maybe don't treat it as seriously as we once did, and it's easy to play golf when you're a little bit more flippant about it and see it for what it is, getting a small ball in a small hole."

READ MORE: Bryson DeChambeau not ruling out taking a Tiger Woods-inspired Plan B in the Open

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