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Lee Westwood Has One Last Chance to Avoid Dubious Major Record

When the 48-year-old Englishman tees off on Thursday at Royal St. George's, he will be making his 88th start in a major. What does he have to show for all of that work? Not one title.
With 87 starts in a major, Lee Westood has one more than Tiger Woods, but still no title. 

With 87 starts in a major, Lee Westood has one more than Tiger Woods, but still no title. 

The "Biggest Loser" was a popular television show, a weight-loss reality show that ran for 17 consecutive seasons. The show is gone now … or is it? In at least one respect, a sequel could be in the making this week at Royal St. George’s Golf Club, and Lee Westwood does not enjoy immunity.

Full disclosure, this has nothing to do with weight loss and Jillian Michaels is not Westwood’s swing coach. At age 48, the once-puffy Westwood is a lean, mean golfing machine, who has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts in the last few months. In fact, it is not far-fetched to suggest Westwood could win the 149th British Open.

After all, Westwood tied for 13th at the 2020 U.S. Open last September. He was second at both Bay Hill and The Players in March. He has 44 professional wins to his credit, was ranked No. 1 in the world for 22 weeks in 2009, and still checks in at No. 29 in the OWGR.

As the horse racing fanatic himself might suggest, longer shots have come in. But if Westwood does not prevail at Royal St. George’s, he will reach a unique distinction. That is, he will be, where major championship golf is concerned, the "Biggest Loser."

Coming into the 2021 Open, Westwood had played in 84 majors without a win. Granted, many others who competed in those majors did not win, as well. But play along, if you will …

Before this year, Jay Haas was the losing leader in the clubhouse, having started 87 majors without a victory during a stellar PGA Tour career. Westwood pulled even with Haas by competing in the first three majors this year without taking home a trophy.

Should he leave Royal St. George’s without the Claret Jug on Sunday evening, Westwood will surpass Haas and run his major winless log to 88.

Obviously, the distinction should be considered a back-door compliment. After all, the mere fact Westwood has played in that many majors is a remarkable achievement of both health and ability. For perspective, Tiger Woods, considered by some to be the greatest player in history and a winner of 15 majors, has played in 86, or two fewer.

"That's nice, that record," Westwood said. "It shows I've been a good player for a long, long time. There's not many people who have played in as many major championships as me."

What’s more, Westwood has every intention of making this week memorable for winning. “I always look forward to the Open Championship,” Westwood told Golf Digest earlier this month at the Scottish Open. “I missed not playing it last year. So it will be nice to be back, especially as it is shaping up like a normal tournament with them letting crowds in.”

But Royal St. George’s has not been kind. Westwood has played in both of the last two British Opens at the golf course (2011, 2003), and missed the cut both times.

"I had it in my head a bit of a mental block that I didn't like the golf course,” Westwood said, "but played it yesterday and really enjoyed it and loved the way it was set up.

”I'm positive and hoping I can find some form and get into contention. Like all links tournaments, you need a little bit of luck with the weather, and like golf, you need a little bit of luck, you need some good breaks."

But it is the nature of the game, and those who follow it, to keep track of the yin and the yang. Thus, titles such as “Best Player To Not Win A Major” have been created and bestowed on players like Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III and Sergio Garcia. Each has worn the label with distinction before shedding it with a major championship win.

If Westwood stays vibrant enough to compete in 12 more majors, he will join an elite group of just 16 who have played in as many as 100, led by Jack Nicklaus’ 164 appearances.

And fear not, should Westwood not win this week, hope remains. After all, Haas has won three Champions Tour majors.

Another European star, Colin Montgomerie started 75 majors without a win. Monty had 10 top-10s in majors and retains the most runner-up finishes without a victory. He was second in the U.S. Opens in 1994, ’97, and ’06, the PGA Championship in ‘95, and the British Open in ’05. Like Haas, Montgomerie has three Champions Tour majors to his credit.

So you see, in golf even the "Biggest Loser" can still be a winner.

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