Lee Westwood happy short game is improving ahead of Houston Open
New surroundings with practice facilities in his Florida back garden the key
England’s Lee Westwood feels his game is coming together at the right time and thinks moving to Florida has contributed to that.
It is to Lee Westwood’s credit that there has been no bigger critic of his infamously ropey short game than the man himself. With the Masters now just a fortnight away, and Westwood’s 40th birthday falling at the end of April, the Englishman has reflected candidly on his inability to claim a Major title thus far in an otherwise successful career.
“Short game is vital in these Major championships,” Westwood explains. “That’s what I have seen over the last few years. If I’d had a good short game, I would probably have been stood here with five Major championships given the positions I got myself into. Hopefully over the next few I can start winning some.
“I think it gets highlighted most at the Masters. But then it gets highlighted at all of them. You do miss greens, there’s more pressure in Majors, especially in the final few rounds. The test is more stringent, the greens are firmer and the flags are cut nearer the edges and you have to have a better action.”
Westwood, who has recently set up home in Florida with an eye towards ending that Major problem, does not view age as a barrier to his aspirations. His good friend Darren Clarke supplied proof of that when winning the Open at 42. “I’m in better nick than I was when I was approaching 30,” Westwood says. “I was weaker and carrying more weight then. I am fitter now.”
Nor is Westwood perturbed by the fact that he has fallen outside the world’s top 10. “It doesn’t greatly bother me,” he says.
“We’re all bunched together and I’ve obviously not played that great for the first part of the year. But it’s not about the first part of the year, it’s about a longer term thing and playing better in the Majors.”
With Augusta on the horizon, though, Westwood describes the current state of his short game as “brilliant”. He adds: “I’m not just getting up and down because I’m holing loads of seven to 10-footers, I’m getting up and down because I’m chipping it to two feet a lot. My bunker play has been really, really good. In fact from 60 yards in it’s been great.”
New surroundings, and practice facilities literally in his Florida back garden, are key to that. “It’s just constantly being able to work on it, I think,” Westwood says. “My technique is so much better. And doing it myself helps. I can just go away to the chipping green and work on things.”
That form has not as yet been endorsed in a slow start to the year that he is looking to turn around at this week’s Shell Houston Open. “I just think there’s been a lot going on, buying houses, trying to sell houses, getting the kids settled, getting me settled,” Westwood adds. “I have actually been hitting the ball well.”
Regain top spot
Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy will bid to regain his world number one ranking from Tiger Woods ahead of the Masters at Houston this week. Woods will not be playing again until the Masters, which begins in Augusta on April 11th.
It gives McIlroy the chance to move back to the top of the pile at the Augusta-like Redstone Golf Club, but to do so he must beat a strong field which, apart from Westwood, includes last year’s winner Hunter Mahan, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Keegan Bradley and Brandt Snedeker.
The winner of the Houston Open will earn the penultimate “win and you’re in” invitation to the Masters if they are not already eligible.