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The curious case of Lee Westwood

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Iain Carter | 15:05 UK time, Monday, 9 April 2012

What did it take to win the 2012 Masters? "Bubba" golf. That's what the new champion calls his unique approach to the game.

The winner departed the Augusta National with no need to break into his prize money to pay a coach because, famously, Bubba Watson claims never to have received a golf lesson.

"My caddie has always called it Bubba golf," Watson explained. "I just play the game, the game that I love."And truthfully, it's like the game that Seve played. He hit shots that were unbelievable. Phil Mickelson hits the shot, he goes for it.

"He goes for broke and that's why he wins so many times," Watson added explaining the philosophy that enabled him to hook a wedge 40 yards right from the trees to win the second sudden death hole against Louis Oosthuizen.

A green jacket adorns Watson's shoulders because we can now say with certainty that "Bubba Golf" is good enough to win major titles.

The American left hander's philosophy goes against the more scientific approach so many of the leading professionals follow.

Bubba Watson is awarded the green jacket by Charl Schwartzel after his one-stroke play-off victory. Photo: Getty

Each to their own, of course, but when you think world number one Luke Donald has a coach in Dave Alred who specialises in teaching his pupils how to practice - never mind play - and you can see the other end of the spectrum.

Donald was part of a disappointing UK brigade that failed to live up to the pre-tournament hype their early season form had warranted. He, along with the number two in the rankings Rory McIlroy, had a Masters to forget.

The Englishman will wonder what more he has to do to ensure he peaks for the majors because he has yet to find a way to make "Donald Golf" capable of challenging for the game's biggest prizes.

McIllroy's policy of taking three weeks off beforehand also looks questionable. Yes it worked last year because he made a flying start to the Masters but he looked rusty when he tried it again for the 2011 Open.

The 22-year-old was firmly in contention at the halfway stage at Augusta but his third round capitulation suggested something was lacking in his preparation and that may have been too little competitive golf in the run-up to the year's first major.

But the home player who intrigues more than any other is Lee Westwood. Yet another top three major finish shows that he can compete as well as anyone but he left the Masters probably more frustrated than any other player taking part.

If he could have putted even reasonably well he would have won the tournament by a street. He finished tied third only two strokes out of the play-off yet there were only three other players who took more putts than the Englishman over the full 72 holes.

"The story of the week is you have got to putt well to win the Masters and I haven't putted well," Westwood said after coming home in 32 for a closing round of 68.

Of course he is correct, but only to an extent. The danger Westwood faces going forward is the fear that only excellent putting can win you a major, thereby loading yet more pressure on the most fallible part of his game.

If he goes down that path, it could finish his chances of ever lifting a major and there is no need for him to think in that way.

Different players have different strengths and his lies in his golf from tee to green. That's where he beats the field and it means that actually pretty ordinary putting can suffice.

At the 2012 Masters he had four three-putts. During the third round he missed from 14 inches on the ninth green and in the final round he missed from two feet at the third.

Eliminating those two errors would have put him in the play-off. That's not turning yourself into the boss of the moss, it's not acquiring a Donald-like touch that is beyond your talent level, it is doing something that is certainly within Westwood's compass.

He hit 58 out of 72 greens in regulation - only Matt Kuchar matched the European Ryder Cup star in this regard. So Westwood has to play to his strengths and accept that a fair proportion of the birdie chances he creates will miss.

Instead of letting himself think that his opponents are all sinking such chances (they aren't) and allowing his confidence to be undermined, he needs to take a different approach.

He has to believe that his strengths are good enough. I suspect that if he can do that, the silly misses that killed him at Augusta would be eliminated.

Certainly his assets are best suited to the US Open and Jay Townsend tipped him on BBC Radio Five live for success at the next major at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.

I agree because, even though the Englishman was the most disappointed figure leaving the Masters, he has to believe that "Westwood Golf" is good enough to win a major. If he does, he can end his wait at the 57th attempt.

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