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Lee Westwood on the verge of setting bittersweet record this week, but calls it a ‘nice record’

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O-for-87, oh my.

That is Lee Westwood’s career record at the major championships. This week marks his 88th start at a major championship and should he fail to win at the 149th British Open at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England, he will earn a dubious distinction, breaking a tie with Jay Haas for the most major starts all-time without a victory. But the 48-year-old Englishman views his major shortcomings with a sense of pride.

“That’s nice, that record. It shows I’ve been a good player for a long, long time,” he said during his pre-championship press conference on Wednesday. “There’s not many people who have played in as many major championships as me.”

It’s not as if Westwood hasn’t had his chances. He’s racked up nine top-3 finishes in the majors, more than any player without a major to his credit, and 18 top-10 finishes. Surely, the former World No. 1 should have snagged at least one somewhere along the way, but he seems destined to finish his career like another dominant European Tour great, Colin Montgomerie, with that tag of Best Player Never to Win a Major.

“Another accolade, yeah. I love it,” he said. “Thank you.”

Despite his major shortcomings, Westwood continues to defy Father Time and enters this week ranked No. 29 in the world. He nearly picked off titles in back-to-back weeks at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship in March, and he married Helen Storey, who doubles as his caddie, ahead of the U.S. Open in June. In a show of his continuation of good form, he held the lead into the weekend at the Scottish Open before slipping back on the weekend to finish T-35 at 9 under.

“When you think 14-under, 26 holes to go, and 18-under is winning it, you should fancy your chances then,” Westwood said. “But obviously didn’t manage to finish that one off.”

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A decade ago, here at Sandwich, Westwood watched his dear friend Darren Clarke end his own major-championship misery as a surprise winner at age 42. Could Westwood follow suit at the tournament he called his “favorite of the year?” He’d be the third-oldest major winner behind only Julius Boros and then 50-year-old sensation Phil Mickelson, who proved anything is possible at the PGA Championship in May and has since turned 51.

“I think he’s reached a level where he’s confident in what he’s doing, he knows what he’s doing, he knows what he’s good at, he knows his limitations, and he seems to be enjoying golf more than he ever has in his entire career,” said NBC/Golf Channel’s John Wood of Westwood. “I think that’s when he’s playing his best golf these days is when he’s trying to just enjoy it.”

Westwood missed the cut in his previous two attempts to be known as “The Champion Golfer of the Year,” at St. George’s, in 2003 and 2011.

“Kind of had it in my head a bit of a mental block that I didn’t like the golf course, but played it yesterday and really enjoyed it,” he said. “Loved the way it was set up,” adding, “just trying to look at it more positively than I’ve missed two cuts.”

It is through the same optimistic lens that Westwood chooses to look at his 0-for-87 record in the biggest championships and still show up at the starting line on Thursday believing that this time the outcome could be different.

“You just kind of load the dice to give you the best opportunities as possible,” he said. “You can’t do any more than that, and then you give them a roll and what happens happens.”