Back-nine miscues cost Westwood shot at U.S. Open playoff

Updated: June 15, 2008

Tiger Woods celebrated earning a spot in Monday's 18-hole playoff for the U.S. Open championship. So did Rocco Mediate (though, admittedly, a little less than Woods).

Lee Westwood? Not so much.

Lee Westwood

Harry How/Getty Images

Lee Westwood was left scratching his head Sunday afternoon after missing a birdie putt that would have put him into a playoff for the U.S. Open title on Monday.

"It's sickening not to be in the playoff tomorrow," Westwood said after he finished one shot shy of joining Woods and Mediate for 18 extra holes to decide the U.S. Open title.

Westwood, who missed a birdie putt on the 18th moments before Woods made his, composed himself and added: "But all in all, I played pretty good all week, and if somebody said 'You're going to have a chance from 20 feet for a playoff on Monday,' then I probably would have taken that at the start of the week."

But Sunday wasn't the start of the week. It was the end of it, and Westwood was in prime position with nine holes left to become the first European player since Tony Jacklin in 1970 to win the U.S. Open. All he had to do was sink one last putt.

Westwood, playing in the final group of the day with a hobbled Woods, was 2-under after a birdie at the ninth. Woods also made birdie on the hole and was one-shot back. Mediate, playing immediately in front of them, was even par at the time.

And Westwood blinked. He hit his tee shot into a fairway bunker at 10, and made bogey. He made another one at the tough par-4 12th, then hit a 3-wood into a lateral hazard and made bogey at the par-5 13th. Suddenly, in four holes, he'd given back three shots to par and, despite a birdie at the 14th, never got the lead again.

At the 18th, Westwood knew he needed a birdie. His tee shot went to the right fairway bunker, however. His shot out of it left him between a sand wedge and a lob wedge. Fearing he'd spin a lob wedge into the water in front of the 18th green, he went with a sand wedge and left it 20-plus feet above the hole.

His putt never had much of a chance, slipping by the cup on the right side. Moments later, Woods made his putt, clinching his spot in a playoff with Mediate.

Westwood, crestfallen at watching his dreams of winning a major slip away on this day, was asked, "That playoff tomorrow … it's obviously going to be exciting."

"I'm struggling to even think who is in the playoff," he said. "It's not really in the front of my mind, to be brutally honest."

Two fairway bunkers and an errant 3-wood cost Westwood the U.S. Open.

The brutally honest truth.

-- David Kraft, ESPN.com


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