Westwood is three shots off the lead after the first round of the U.S. Open. (Hallowell/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
ARDMORE, Pa. -- It's that time of year again.
Nine times Lee Westwood has finished in the top 5 of a major championship, of which none have been wins. Nonetheless, the 40-year-old Brit continues to persist.
Westwood was at it again on Friday, finishing off an opening-round 70 at Merion Golf Club, where he is three shots off the lead of Phil Mickelson.
"It's a good start," Westwood said matter-of-factly. For one, there's an awful long way to go. For another, he's been here before.
Each of the last two years, Westwood has finished in the top 10 in the U.S. Open, including in 2011 when he matched his best-career result with a (albeit distant) third-place finish. In 2008, he also finished third, narrowly missing out on the playoff at Torrey Pines.
In all, he's finished in the top 10 five times in the national championship.
But when it comes to winning, much of his malaise can be traced to a sometimes shaky short game -- Westwood ranks outside the top 100 in putting, for example, and his third and fourth-round scoring averages have as well.
Still, Westwood had reason to be pleased Friday.
"I'm in decent position," Westwood continued.
And that despite a double bogey after hitting one of Merion's famed wicker baskets on his approach to the 12th hole on Thursday.
He handled it about as well as anyone could.
"(R&A Chief Executive) Peter Dawson has reassured me that for the Open Championship we'll be going back to flags," westwood quipped. "like a normal tournament."