The home of golf has finally earned the respect of the world No 3 after a testing week which saw South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen emerge as the British Open champion.
St Andrews grows on runner-up Westwood
ST ANDREWS // Lee Westwood was once asked if he rated the Old Course at St Andrews as the best in the world and replied he thought it was not in the top 100 in Fife. Whether he was joking or not, he does not mean it now. The home of golf has finally earned the respect of the world No 3 after a testing week which saw South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen emerge as the British Open champion.
"It's grown on me over the years," the Briton told reporters after a closing 70 saw him go one better than his tie for third at Turnberry 12 months ago. Westwood has not won a major yet but his record in the big four is as good as anyone over the past few years, and another week where no putts seemed to drop for him cost him the chance of a maiden win before his home crowd. But one thing the Englishman, who came into the week with an ankle injury hanging over his participation, can take from the tournament is a new-found admiration for the Old Course which tested the world's best 156 golfers to their limit.
"I think when you're young and a bit naive you come here and you kind of bash it around trying to hit it everywhere and it's the kind of course that can lull you into a false sense of security," he said after his fourth top-10 Open finish. "It has a lot of subtleties out there. You see a lot of big, deep traps and a lot of big high slopes and mounds on the greens. "It's quite a subtle golf course and needs some thinking about. It's one of my favourites. It's one of the golf courses I truly look forward to coming and playing now."
Westwood said his injury had little effect on the outcome of the tournament and he could swing easily enough. He faces a couple of weeks resting before tackling the rest of the season. "I think there's an improvement there and if I can just take it easy the next couple of weeks and rehab it correctly, I think I should be over it pretty quickly. It'll be OK for the WGC Invitational at Bridgestone and the US PGA."
Paul Casey, meanwhile, chose to accentuate the positives rather than dwell on the negatives after his final round. The 32-year-old Briton started the day in second place, four shots behind playing partner Oosthuizen, but a closing round of 75 meant that he finished a distant eight strokes adrift of the South African champion in a tie for third place. "It's been a year that I injured myself, strained muscles in the ribs," Casey told reporters after compiling an eight-under total of 280. "Now, it's full circle. I had some good bounces as well this week and maybe it's the golfing gods sort of getting me into good form. Although I've had some good results I must admit I've been playing a little bit tentatively."
The Englishman said his strong showing this week underlined his belief he could win a major. "Maybe this is a sign that ... the latter half of the season is going to be great for me. That would be nice," added Casey. "I know I'm going to win a major, it's just a matter of time. This week just wasn't my week." Casey heaped praise on Oosthuizen. "That was an unbelievable performance. He was very calm, played wonderful golf."