Commentary: Stoic Westwood keeps coming back for moreApril, 2014
Deep down, we all know he won't win but you can only admire Westwood's spirit
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again…” – Theodore Roosevelt
And so it was that Lee Westwood trudged off the final green having eventually, if entirely unconvincingly, nudged a birdie in, down the hill, trickling, trundling and eventually falling.
A 71 was added to his opening 73 and he goes into the weekend inside the top 20. In a Major championship. Again. Not that it will make any difference. It never does.
This is a man who has finished in the top 10 of a Major 16 times previously and still never won one.
Even we Brits have given up on him, to judge by the 50/1 price available before a ball was struck. These are insultingly long odds for a man who has finished worse than 11th in the Masters only once in the last six years. Who has played in every Ryder Cup since making his debut in 1997. Who was the World No 1 as recently as three years ago.
But the punters aren’t (always) stupid. Westwood at Augusta is a blunt implement being used for the most delicate of operations.
"Over the first two days he has, true to form, hit more fairways and greens than the field"
You have to putt well to prosper here. Your touch has to be just so. You need to be able chip brilliantly to counter the lies with the grass growing into you. You need to be capable of inspired patches of low scoring. You need to be a mood player, seduced by the unique colours and blooms of Augusta National.
Westwood, 41 in a fortnight, is none of those things.
And yet he turns up year after year and gets himself into contention. Simply by doing what he does best, regardless of whether it’s Augusta National or Royal Troon, which is thumping drive after drive down the fairway, dispatching iron shots into the heart of the greens then stoically accepting his two putts (whether from five feet or 50). Repeat to (slight) fade.
Over the first two days he has, true to form, hit way more fairways than the field (82 per cent to the field’s average of 69) way more greens (69 per cent to the field’s average of 58) and had slightly more putts (1.69 to 1.67).
He even holed a putt on Friday. So surreal an experience was it, across the 5th green, over a few lumps and down a level, it seemed fitting that it would have been easier to can a full 4 iron.
Over the past 18 months Westwood has moved to America and changed his coach, caddy and schedule. He’s now back with Billy Foster on the bag and by working with Mike Walker, he is doing the next best thing to being reacquainted with Pete Cowen, his long-time tutor.
It’s much the same with his golf as a whole. The French have a phrase for it: Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. The more things change the more they stay the same.
We can only wish him well for the weekend. By rights he has as much chance as anyone bar Bubba Watson and Adam Scott.
But somehow you just know, and suspect he does too, that he’s destined to come up short once more.
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