This game dishes out heartache like Grandma dishes out mashed potatoes, and among heartaches none hits the ticker harder then a tremendous talent denied. Lee Westwood(below) is the first person in history to finish in the top three in all four majors without winning any of them.
The feat proves that he can play on any course, under any conditions, and that despite his reputation as a below-average chipper, he must be doing something right around the greens to have become the most consistent player in the game's biggest events. It's also worrisome because you wonder if it's possible to be that good and not win a major. Bruce Crampton was runner-up four times in majors, all to Jack Nicklaus, and Colin Montgomerie was runner-up five times in majors, yet fate never bowed to either. Crampton and Montgomerie were mercurial in nature, and it seemed that those close calls took a toll on them. By contrast, Westwood seems spurred by each high finish in much the same way Phil Mickelson was before he broke through in 2004.
The PGA Championship is returning to Whistling Straits, which seems like an ideal place for Westwood to break through. At more than 7,500 yards and susceptible to strong winds, the site of this year's last major is unforgiving and intimidating. Lee is the best driver in the game and a brilliant iron player with a manageable short game, and very much—on paper—the player that Vijay Singh was in 2004 when the angels sang for him in Kohler, Wis. Those same angels will sing for Mr. Westwood on Aug. 15.
Brandel Chamblee, a 15-year PGA veteran, is an analyst for Golf Channel.
August 1, 2010
GOLF PLUS will next appear in the Aug. 23 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.