AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Britain’s Lee Westwood fell just short of a first major title with a runner-up finish at the Masters but took strength from a knowing counselor on Sunday.
Champion Phil Mickelson was the first to tell him it was just a matter of time for the six-times European Ryder Cup player and twice European Tour money leader, who has finished third, third and second in his last three majors.
“Phil was just saying in the scoring hut after we had finished that he’d been that man that kept knocking on the door -- finishing seconds and thirds and wondering if it ever does come, and suddenly it does and winning majors becomes easier in your own mind,” Westwood told reporters.
“He says I’ve been playing some of the best golf out of anybody recently and just to keep plugging away and eventually it will happen.”
Westwood entered the final round with a one-shot lead over playing partner Mickelson, but failed to build on it during an up-and-down front nine and slipped a stroke behind.
After the turn he was outplayed by the left-hander.
“I shot 71 at the end of the day, which is not a terrible score around Augusta when you’re in the lead,” said Westwood, whose 13-under-par 275 total put him three shots behind.
”Phil shot 67, which generally wins major championships when people are there or thereabouts going into the last round.
”He hit good shots when he needed to around the back nine.
“I think Phil won that one fair and square.”
Westwood said he was proud of how he handled the day.
“I wasn’t nervous at all. It was amazing out there. Before the round I was excitedly nervous but once we got out there and got going I felt really calm and just enjoyed the experience.”
“I’ve never come close to getting to 13-under around here,” added Westwood, whose previous best total score at a Masters had been three-under-par in 1999 and a tie for sixth.
”The closer I get to winning these major championships, the more I want the next one (the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in June) to come around.
“If you sat me down at the start of the year and asked me to rate which ones suit me, I would probably put the Masters last. So to finish second is obviously a massive boost.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury