OAKMONT, Pa. – The crown of "best player never to have won a major" sits on the head of Dustin Johnson at the moment.
For a long time, Lee Westwood reluctantly held that title. The 43-year-old Englishman once knocked Tiger Woods out of the No. 1 spot in the world rankings in 2010. He’s played on nine European Ryder Cup teams. He owns victories on five different continents. But none of those are of the major variety.
Westwood owns eight top-thee finishes in the golf's biggest tournaments, without a victory.
"I've been out here a long time now," said Westwood, who played in his first major in 1995. "I'm realizing what to do and and what not to do when it's conditions like this."
A first round of 3-under 67 that was completed Friday morning has him just one shot off the lead of Andrew Landry.
"I've been playing really nicely," Westwood said. "I like a challenge. This golf course is certainly a challenge. It tests you mentally.
"I hit the ball well. A lot of fairways, a lot of greens. ... I'm pleased with the start. It's a good way to start this championship. You don't really want to be shooting a lot over par and having to chase."
Westwood has played just seven combined starts between the PGA and European tours this year.
"I'm probably fresher than most people," he said, adding with a long day looming Saturday, "I'll probably cut down on the gym sessions and see the energy in my legs."
One of Westwood's starts this season was a tie for second at the Masters, which shows he can still be a factor in majors.
"It gave me a big boost – a big shot of confidence," he said. "I hadn't contended in a big tournament for a while. So was nice to get up there and hang about and give myself a chance. ... It was nice to feel those emotions again."
Should he back up his 67 with another round in red figures Saturday, he'll have another chance to do that.
Westwood has five career top-five finishes in the U.S. Open.
"People have always said that because I drive the ball pretty straight and my irons are pretty accurate," he would have a chance to contend in this tournament. "I think I've had my chances at the Open. ... Iff you did look at my game, I suppose the U.S. Open should suit me more than the others."