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Lee Westwood takes two-shot lead into final round of British Open



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Event: 142nd British Open.

Site: Muirfield.

Leading: Lee Westwood, who shot a 2-under 70 for a 210 total.

Just behind: Hunter Mahan and Tiger Woods, who shot 68 and 72, respectively, and at 212 were the only other players in the field under par.

Notable: Woods has won 14 majors, second to Jack Nicklaus’ 18, but he never has come from behind after 54 holes to win one.

Quotable: ‘‘Actually I’m not in a high-pressure situation because I’m only going to have dinner. I’m so good with a knife and fork now, I don’t feel any pressure at all.’’ — Westwood, who hasn’t won a major, on how he’ll handle the lead.

TV: Sunday —
5 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., ESPN; 2-5 p.m. Ch. 7.

Scores, Page 43

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Updated: August 22, 2013 7:02AM

GULLANE, Scotland — Feeling a sense of urgency as he
approached 40, Lee Westwood last year moved his family from England to Florida so he could hone his golf game year-round.

The move seems to be paying off.

Taking another step toward removing his name from the discussion of ‘‘best player who hasn’t won a major,’’ Westwood opened a two-shot lead after the third round Saturday of the British Open at Muirfield.

‘‘Little did I know when I moved to Florida that I was acclimatizing for the Open,’’ Westwood said, joking about Scotland’s heat wave. ‘‘No, obviously I hoped that living [there] was going to help my game. And, so far, you’d have to say it’s worked in a positive way.’’

On a day when dry, windy conditions made it difficult to control the ball, Westwood shot a 1-under-par 70. His playing partner, Tiger Woods, shot a 1-over 72. Woods and Hunter Mahan (3-under 68) were two shots behind Westwood in a tournament where only three players were under par.

‘‘Even though I haven’t won a major championship, I know what it takes to win one,’’ Westwood said, touching on a sensitive subject.

Adam Scott was three shots off the lead. Angel Cabrera, Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore and Henrik Stenson were four behind. Westwood and Mahan will play in the final group, with Woods and Scott just ahead of them.

The field has been going backward at Muirfield, where opportunities for mistakes greatly outnumber chances for birdie.

Throughout his round, Westwood showed that the Florida sunshine has improved his putting. An eagle on the 551-yard, par-5 fifth hole, where he hit driver on his first and second shots to set up a curling putt from the fringe, got him to 3 under par.

There was a time when playing with the intimidating Woods was considered hazardous to a golfer’s scorecard health. But Westwood dispelled that notion and began puncturing theories that his short game, especially his putting, is the big reason he still is seeking his first major despite a stellar career on the European and PGA tours.

Holding a one-shot lead after 15 holes, Westwood seemed to be in danger of letting things slip away when he put his tee shot into the weeds on the par-3 16th and was unable to get on the green in two. But after Woods narrowly missed a birdie putt, Westwood calmly sank a healthy bogey putt, leaving him tied with Woods for the lead.

‘‘That was probably the biggest momentum thing I did all day — walk off there with a bogey,’’ Westwood said. ‘‘It was one of the few bad shots I hit all day, and it found the worst lie I’ve found all week. I was pleased to make 4. But that’s what’s been missing — making those putts. And backing it up with a birdie at the next, those are the sorts of things you need to do.’’

Westwood added a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-5 17th and opened his two-shot lead when Woods bogeyed after attempting a risky 240-yard carry over bunkers on his second shot on the same hole.

‘‘If I hit it flat and flush, it’s fine; it carries,’’ Woods said. ‘‘But I spun it. And it went about 225 [yards] or so.’’

In 18 previous British Opens, Westwood has finished among the top five three times, including second place at St. Andrews in 2010 and a tie for third at Turnberry in 2009. Westwood also finished second at the Masters in 2010, the year he ended Woods’ five-year run as the No. 1-ranked player in the world.

Heading into Sunday, Westwood will have a chance to extend Woods’ five-year major drought. And end his own careerlong major frustration.

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