By Tony Jimenez
TROON, Scotland (Reuters) – Lee Westwood has the Midas touch when it comes to final-day groups at 2016 majors and every golfer in the 156-strong field at the British Open will be dreaming of partnering the Englishman this Sunday.
The former world number one played alongside Danny Willett in the last round when his compatriot won the U.S. Masters in April and did the same when American Dustin Johnson triumphed at the U.S. Open in June.
Westwood’s caddie Billy Foster, renowned as one of the best bagmen in the game, says the third leg of the ‘Westy Slam’ is now on at golf’s oldest major.
“I guess they’ll all be scrambling to play with Lee on Sunday,” Foster told Reuters in an interview as the rain lashed down on the rugged Royal Troon links on the west coast of Scotland on Wednesday.
“He’s on a hat-trick on the ‘Westy Slam’ so let’s see what this week brings.
“Let’s hope his playing partner trips and breaks his arm walking to the first tee on Sunday and Lee plays on his own,” joked Foster.
The 43-year-old Westwood picked up a cheque for $880,000 for finishing tied second at the Masters while his U.S. Open hopes were wrecked by a bad start to the last round and he ended up down in a share of 32nd place.
The straight-talking Foster, who once caddied for the late Seve Ballesteros and also had a brief spell working with Tiger Woods, recalled Westwood’s closing efforts at the Masters and U.S. Open.
“He didn’t really have a chance at Augusta until he chipped in at 15 so it was a bit of a surprise to walk to the 16th tee thinking it was going to be Lee or Danny who won,” added Foster.
“Danny played great golf, never missed a shot, and the best man probably won but it was great to be back in the mix. Lee hadn’t been in that position for three or four seasons so it was great to be back in with a chance to win a major.
OUT OF POSITION
“At the U.S. Open he played great golf to get into the last group with Dustin and Oakmont was just one of those courses that if you were slightly out of position you were fighting against a bogey or a double bogey,” said Foster.
“He got off to a horrendous start, he was five-over after five. The day was over and from then on it was a case of just cheerleading Dustin home.”
Foster has been a tour caddie for more than 30 years and knows a thing or two about Royal Troon.
He caddied there for Scotland’s Gordon Brand junior in 1989 and came close to snatching the first prize with Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland eight years later.
“Clarkey birdied the first hole of the final round to tie for the lead and then shanked his tee shot at the next and the rest was history,” said Foster.
“He had every chance to win on the Sunday but it didn’t go his way and he finished second to Justin Leonard.”
Foster said it was of paramount importance to keep out of the treacherous sand traps at the 7,190-yard, par-71 Troon layout.
“The secret here is keeping it out of the bunkers,” he explained. “If you go into them you’re coming out sideways or backwards so you’ve got to try and play sensible golf.
“If you get a bit greedy you can bring a double bogey into the equation very quickly. The back nine especially can be very brutal.”
(Editing by Toby Davis)