GULLANE, Scotland -- While Phil Mickelson was hoisting the claret jug on the 18th green to roars and applause, 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," Westwood 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 a 4-over 75 to finish four strokes behind the fast-finishing Mickelson, tied for third place 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 again.
File this in the same drawer as the British Open at Turnberry in 2009, where he three-putted to miss out on a playoff, and the 2010 Masters in which he led after 54 holes.
Never has he had such a cushion going into a final round but he couldn’t build any momentum and regularly put himself in trouble. Three plugged lies in bunkers on Nos. 7, 8, and 9 resulted in two dropped shots, relinquishing his lead, and many of his drives dribbled off the fairways into the light rough or, even worse, the thick stuff.
Westwood didn’t make a birdie on a back nine he has struggled with all week.
"I wouldn’t have done anything different for breakfast, or carried three markers in the pocket instead of two," Westwood said. "I never second-guess myself. So there’s no point in doing it, you just do what feels right at the time."
Westwood has 38 wins around the world, climbed atop the rankings in 2010 to end Tiger Woods’ five-year reign and has been an integral part of a string of Ryder Cup-winning Europe teams. But that first major remains elusive, just like it does for compatriot Luke Donald.