By Josh Powell | Open Championship
Saturday night. Up and down Britain, lads and lasses are winding down by necking a few strawberry woo-woos, dancing on the tables and crawling to kebab shops after an evening of fun, frolics and face-planting the floor.
But somewhere near Gullane, on the east-coast of Scotland Lee Westwood is resting his eyes ahead of one the biggest days of his career.
Westwood is going into the final round of the Open Championship three-under par, with a narrow two shot lead over the chasing pack. There won’t be any sambuca shots in Walkabout tonight for the big Englishman.
There is a big difference between being top of the leaderboard and then winning the event. The palms are sweatier, the greens feel quicker, putting a ball feels like trying to get an elephant’s testicle into a button hole, and that’s just playing crazy golf against the missus. Imagine how much tougher trying to hold it together at Murfield is?
History lends itself, only slightly, to the third round leader going on to lift the Claret Jug. In the last 15 years, eight of the third round leaders have gone on to win the tournament with a strike rate of 53 per cent.
Third round leader and their final position
- 2012: Adam Scott – Finished second
- 2011: Darren Clarke – Winner
- 2010: Louis Oosthuizen – Winner
- 2009: Tom Watson – Finished second in a play-off
- 2008: Greg Norman – Finished third
- 2007: Sergio Garcia – Finished second in a play-off
- 2006: Tiger Woods – Winner
- 2005: Tiger Woods – Winner
- 2004: Todd Hamilton – Winner in a play-off
- 2003: Thomas Bjorn – Finished second
- 2002 Ernie Els – Winner in a play-off
- 2001: Alex Cejka – Finished 13th
2001: David Duval – Winner
2001: Bernhad Langer – Finished third
2001: Ian Woosnam – Finished third
- 2000: Tiger Woods – Winner
- 1999: Jean ven de Velde – Finished second in a play-off
- 1998: Brian Watts – Finished second in a play-off
In 12 of the last 15 years, the third round leader has made it to a play-off for the title, giving Westwood-backers plenty to get excited about on Sunday afternoon. If you’ve backed him each-way you might as well start thinking about what you’re going to spend your winnings on because in the last 15 years, only Czech Alex Cejka in 2001, managed to finish outside the top three after leading on Sunday morning. Plus Paddy was offering seven places – Yabadabadoo.
That doesn’t mean the mob of golfers queuing up behind Westy can’t take the crown however. Ernie Els was six shots off the lead last year and sitting in fifth when he called it a night on Saturday – 24 hours later he was Open Champion for a second time. Padraig Harrington is a three-time Major champion – but in none of those three events has he been top of the leaderboard when he pings his ball off the first tee on Sunday.
Were was the winner on Saturday night?
- 2012: Ernie Els – Fifth, six shots off the lead
- 2009: Stewart Cink – Sixth, three shots off the lead
- 2008: Padraig Harrington – Second, two shots off the lead
- 2007: Padraig Harrington – Third, six shots off the lead
- 2003: Ben Curtis – Third, two shots off the lead
- 1999: Paul Lawrie – Tenth, ten shots off the lead
- 1998: Mark O’Meara – Second, two shots off the lead
There is no need to lose faith then if you’ve had a nibble on Tiger Woods or Adam Scott. Even Sergio Garcia who is six shots behind could make the places with a solid round on Sunday. Paul Lawrie’s success in 1999 is a bit of an anomaly due to Jean van de Velde’s incredible collapse, and his ten shot turnaround is the biggest comeback in Major history.