GULLANE, Scotland — While Phil Mickelson was hoisting the claret jug on the 18th green, Lee Westwood was about 40 yards away in the corner of a press tent, explaining how yet another major championship got away from him.
“I wanted to be there on the 18th green right now — that’s pretty obvious,” he said, briefly turning his eyes to a nearby TV screen to see Mickelson parading the trophy.
Seeking a first major title to erase his “nearly man” tag, Westwood began the final round of the British Open with a two-stroke lead. But he shot 4-over-par 75 to finish four strokes behind Mickelson, tied for third with Ian Poulter and Adam Scott.
“I’m not too disappointed,” Westwood said. “I don’t really get disappointed with golf anymore.”
Westwood has come to live with near misses at golf’s biggest tournaments. This was his eighth top-three finish in 62 majors and, at 40, he may never have a better chance.
“I wouldn’t have done anything different for breakfast or carried three markers in the pocket instead of two,” he said. “I never second-guess myself. So there’s no point in doing it; you just do what feels right at the time.”
Adam Scott’s collapse wasn’t nearly as spectacular as it was a year ago. But the end result was the same.
For the second year in a row, Scott held the lead on the back nine. For the second year in a row, he left without his name on the claret jug.
Even the green jacket he won in between at the Masters couldn’t ease the sting.
“I think the disappointing thing is this one I felt I wasted a little bit,” Scott said. “I would have liked to be in at the end, and no one was, actually. It’s a shame.”
Mickelson closed so strongly that he likely would have won no matter what Scott or any of his fellow competitors did. But three straight bogeys on the back nine sealed Scott’s fate, eliminating him from contention before he even had a shot at making a late run.
“I let a great chance slip, I felt, during the middle of the round, and that’s disappointing,” he said. “Had I played a little more solid in the middle of that back nine, I could have had a chance coming in.”
Scott made a run at the lead when he sank a long putt on the eighth hole for birdie, then followed with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 ninth. When he added another birdie on the par-4 11th, he was suddenly in the lead with seven holes to go.
Nothing new there. Last year at the Open at Lytham, Scott had a four-shot lead with four holes to play.
Tiger Woods kept staring incredulously at the ball — when it veered off in odd directions, when it stopped rolling far from the cup.
It was as though Woods had forgotten how to read a putt.
Woods’ latest chance to end the longest major tournament drought of his career slipped away Sunday, when Mickelson won the claret jug with one of the greatest closing rounds in history.
For Woods, it was another mystifying showing by a guy who used to produce that sort of magic regularly. He once was considered a lock to break Jack Nicklaus’ record in golf’s biggest events, yet the number of titles remains stuck at 14 — four shy of the Golden Bear and right where it has been since Woods’ triumph at the 2008 U.S. Open.
He started the day just two strokes behind 54-hole leader Westwood, but it fell apart quickly. An ugly three-putt at No. 1 was the start of his misery, and Woods was at 3-over for the round by the time he walked off the sixth green.
Woods staggered to the finish with a 74, five shots back. Woods needed 33 putts to get around the course; only six of the 84 players used it more.
“It was frustrating,” he said. “I played well. I could just never get the speed right today.”
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