Lee Westwood was done with the Ryder Cup as a player. Now, through a putting and mind overhaul, he might be part of Padraig Harrington's team in September
Lee Westwood has always been too good to just slip gently away into the night. When you discuss the all-time driving greats Westwood would be up there and his ball-striking wouldn’t be far behind.
But, as we’re tediously and often reminded, this is supposedly a young man’s game and the nerve ends and body will catch up with you at some point.
A little over a year ago Westwood was nudging his way out of the very elite game but then came the Nedbank win. Then came the share of 4th place at Portrush which got him back to Augusta and now this, the riches of a Rolex Series win which will get him back inside the world’s top 30.
He’ll now be ranked higher than the likes of Sergio Garcia, as well as fellow former World No. 1 players Jordan Spieth and Jason Day.
The latest phase of Westwood’s career involves some swing improvements with Robert Rock and another overhaul of his putting stroke with Phil Kenyon. Marry the two and he’s turned himself into something very special at the age of 46.
“I went back to the claw after the Dunhill,” he explained. “I went down to see Phil Kenyon and said we’ve got to make a drastic change. All the figures on the computer said that was giving me the best strike and the best roll.
“I felt pretty comfortable all week but more trying to keep a lid on how good I felt I’ve been putting. That was the key to winning, really.”
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 19, 2020
One of Thomas Bjorn’s vice-captains in France, Westwood would likely repeat that task at Whistling Straits under Padraig Harrington given that he, you would strongly suspect, has been lined up to captain Europe at the 2022 Ryder Cup in Italy.
He’d played in 10 on the bounce, winning seven, and his last playing venture resulted in a 0-0-3 showing at Hazeltine and it seemed like his Ryder Cup playing career was done. This is the way of the world, people grumbled, this was one Ryder Cup too far for the boy.
Until now. And a year which beckons starts in all four majors and five WGCs.
“I’m not sure I can take any more Ryder Cups,” he said as part of an emotional interview with Sky Sports.
“It was good watching the lads last time. But you know, obviously if there’s a chance of that, then I might as well go for it. It’s nice just to come out and keep proving that you’ve still got it.
“I thought I was done in the Ryder Cup to be honest as a player. Now I’ve given myself a chance to play, so yeah, I’ll just play week in, week out, just to see. I’m not going to increase my schedule but I’ll be playing in all the big tournaments again. The World Golf Championships are all on the calendar now and obviously every major, so who knows.”
The other ingredient that you don’t get to see on the TV or that Westwood, given his nature, won’t ram down your throat is the sheer hard work that he puts in and doing what works best for him.
“I’ve been working hard in the gym. I’ve had some good time off. I’ve relaxed, settled my mind and rested, rested that space between the ears. [Psychologist] Ben [Davis] has instilled in me the fact that I’m playing the game I love for a living, and I should enjoy it. We’re lucky to be doing what we’re doing and a lot of people are far less fortunate. I’ve never been a club breaker but I don’t really get wound up too much. I’ve become much more analytical and less emotional on the course.
“You’ve got to be dedicated and you’ve got to love it and you’ve got to love practising. Because there are no short cuts. A few years back, there was Tiger, myself and Vijay who were the last three on the range and it wasn’t a coincidence that the best players are the hardest workers.”
As for the trademark Westwood celebration?
“Dry January. I promised myself when I came back from Thailand, I wouldn’t have a drink until after Saudi, so I’ll be on the sparkling water.”
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