PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — With apologies to a few fairly good occasions within the United Arab Emirates, Lee Westwood is on the verge of the most important victory of a protracted profession that has seen him win everywhere in the world.

There are nonetheless 18 holes to go. Plus, he is acquired to stare at Bryson DeChambeau‘s biceps for an additional four-plus hours on Sunday.

However Westwood has given himself a 2-shot benefit heading into the ultimate spherical of the Gamers Championship. A victory at golf’s so-called “fifth main” can be as in style round this sport as within the pubs of his native Worksop, England.

In 2020, at age 47, Westwood was the oldest winner of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai. He gained final yr in Abu Dhabi and captured the season-ending Dubai World Championship in 2009.

He has performed on 10 European Ryder Cup groups; he is been on the profitable staff seven instances. He has earned 23 factors and being named captain is in his close to future.

However …

He has by no means gained a serious championship. He has by no means gained a World Golf Championship occasion. He has by no means gained Europe’s flagship match, the BMW PGA Championship.

“Undoubtedly,” he mentioned when requested if the Gamers can be tops in his profession. “It will be the most important match I’ve ever gained.”

There’s some irony in all this. A decade in the past, Westwood skipped the Gamers — he was ranked No. 1 on this planet on the time. He was not a member of the PGA Tour on the time, as an alternative taking part in totally on the European Tour. It was seen then as a snub to the PGA Tour, skipping its marquee occasion as a result of he didn’t wish to journey to america for only one match.

That was a distinct time. And now, Westwood is in a distinct place.

“I do not like to match the Lee Westwood of 10 years in the past or 20 years in the past to the Lee Westwood of immediately,” he mentioned Saturday after a third-round 68 at TPC Sawgrass noticed him take a 2-shot lead over DeChambeau and a Three-shot benefit over Justin Thomas and Doug Ghim.

“I am definitely having as a lot enjoyable on the golf course as I’ve ever had. That in all probability helps me play some nice golf.”

Per week in the past, he took DeChambeau to the 18th gap on the Bay Hill Membership, lastly falling a shot quick when the long-hitting U.S. Open champion drained a nervy putt for a 1-shot victory on the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The 20-year distinction in age or the sizable size distinction off the tee in comparison with DeChambeau did not hassle Westwood. He has burdened he’s merely having fun with the method and never focusing so closely on the outcomes.

“I feel Helen is a giant a part of it,” DeChambeau mentioned, referring to Westwood’s caddie and fiancée, Helen Storey. “She’s retaining him regular and down to earth. She’s a rock. Retains his thoughts targeted on the precise issues. She’s been superior for him. And that is considered one of his secret weapons, I feel.”

Storey has been his caddie practically full time since 2018 — he has sometimes used his son, Sam — and the partnership has produced some good outcomes. Westwood is now ranked 31st on this planet, the best he has been since 2014.

“I feel at my stage of my profession there’s not rather a lot a caddie can inform me,” he mentioned. “However, clearly, Helen will get me in a improbable temper on the market. Psychologically, she will help me and say the issues that I want to listen to. She helps me in that facet an immeasurable quantity.”

Westwood remained affected person Saturday after making 9 straight pars to begin the spherical. He then made birdies on the 10th, 12th, 16th and 17th holes. He had no bogeys and goes into one other Sunday on middle stage. The massive stage, although, is the place the issues lie.

He has 25 European Tour wins, which ranks eighth. He has 44 skilled wins. However he additionally has by no means gained a serious regardless of 9 top-10 finishes, together with 12 top-5s.

In 2008, when Tiger Woods — on a damaged leg — made a birdie putt on the 72nd gap to power a playoff with Rocco Mediate, Westwood was the forgotten character in all that. He missed a putt proper earlier than Woods rolled in his that might have gotten Westwood within the Monday playoff. In 2009, when 59-year-old Tom Watson practically gained the Open earlier than dropping in additional holes to Stewart Cink, it was Westwood who missed out on the playoff by a single shot. In 2010, when Phil Mickelson hit his memorable shot by the timber on the 13th en path to a Masters win, it was Westwood who completed second.

Westwood wouldn’t go as far as to say profitable on Sunday can be equal to profitable a serious.

“That is such a prestigious title and a giant match to win,” he mentioned.

At age 47, although, it might be extremely candy.

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