BBC BLOGS - Rob Hodgetts
« Previous | Main | Next »

Westwood faces major challenge

Post categories:

Rob Hodgetts | 22:37 UK time, Thursday, 19 July 2012

The old adage says you can't win the tournament on the first day but you can lose it.
Lee Westwood is on the brink of testing that out.

The Englishman was feted by many as the Open champion-elect at Royal Lytham this week, given the way he consistently knocks on the door in majors.

Westwood has finished in the top three in seven of the past 16 of golf's big four tournaments, and plenty of pundits think it is only a matter of time he wins, although at 39 time is probably also running out.

But his pin-point tee-to-green game, on an intricate bunker-infested track, and an experienced, unruffled demeanour, born from several scraps at the sharp end of majors, were supposed to pave the way to a first major title, at the 58th attempt.

England - starved of an Open champion since Nick Faldo in 1992 - expected, and Westwood - or maybe Luke Donald - was supposed to deliver. Let's be clear - he yet might.

But a first-round 73 in calm, dry conditions that begged to be taken advantage of, left Westwood nine shots off the lead of Adam Scott. The Australian did make Lady Lytham blush and shot a 64 to equal the Lytham course record in an Open.


Westwood has 22 European Tour wins, but is searching for his first major Photo: Reuters



Westwood, who began with two birdies but quickly leaked a double bogey on the third, could not get past first base.

Four bogeys after the turn brought him home in 40, and afterwards he confessed he has been struggling for some time. If only he had told us before we all trooped down the bookies.

"The start was a bit of a lie, really," said the world number three.

"I don't feel in control of the ball at the moment and you get found out pretty quickly around an Open Championship course. I've been working on it for three or four weeks now, since the US Open. I didn't hit it that great there, I got away with a lot."

Straight after his media duties Westwood headed back out to the practice range with coach Pete Cowen. The pair worked through his issues for two-and-a-half hours, before a stint on the chipping green and practice bunker and then a spell on the putting green.

"He's just losing stability in his lower body and leaning into the ball," Cowen told me. "He's losing everything out to the right.

"Everyone reverts to type now and again. It happens. It's just disappointing it should happen now. He'll just have to work hard to get through it.

"He never gets down but it's disappointing because he's been playing great recently."

One man refusing to get too downbeat is BBC commentator Ken Brown, who witnessed - as his playing partner - Seve Ballesteros's wayward route to victory at Lytham in 1979.

"Westwood will have come in here with a lot of expectation and anticipation and he will know he has missed an opportunity," Brown told me.

"He had a good starting time, and there wasn't much breeze about when he played, but still, 73 is right, right in it.

"It's not insurmountable at all. It happens at Lytham. You've got to look at the end of the week. Who knows what the winning score will be but if you finish on 275 - five under - you've got to say 'I've got a chance'. It depends on the breeze and everything but normally around here anyone breaking par has done pretty well.

"So it's not his greatest day but there are miles to go yet. If he shoots three rounds in the 60s, whatever 60s they are, I would say he has a great chance of winning."

The forecast for Friday is dry and calm with winds of less than 5mph in the afternoon (Westwood tees off at 14:21 BST). It is set to get slightly windier on Saturday and there are gusts forecast of up to 30mph on Sunday afternoon.

According to Brown, it is "swings and roundabouts" whether it is easier to chase or defend a lead in windy conditions.

"If you shoot a low score on a windy day obviously you make up a lot of ground, but it's that much harder to do," said Brown.

Of course, Westwood is not alone. Phil Mickelson, runner-up last year, also shot 73, and Justin Rose took 74, while defending champion Darren Clarke finds himself 12 back. Donald is six adrift after a level-par 70.

Rory McIlroy, right in contention at three under, knows only too well how the game works.

His infamous Masters meltdown, and a second-round 80 at St Andrews after a course-record-equalling 63 on day one in the 2010 Open, are testament to how fortunes can change.

"You're just trying to play well and put yourself in position going into Sunday," he said. "It doesn't matter what the leader is on on Thursday."

Westwood et al would also do well to remember that Paul Lawrie, one off Scott's lead at Lytham, came from 10 behind on the final day to win at Carnoustie in 1999.

So you can lose the tournament on day one, but what Westwood has really done is make it a bit more difficult to win.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    why on earth are you even writing about westwood ? just a complete also-ran this year not even worthy of mention so many more worthwhile pieces you could have written.

    as I said on your other blog westwood will never win a major guaranteed, he freely admits he has a problem with his putter, never in the history of the game has anyone who has a problem on the greens won a major, its just not possible.

    now he's completely out of contention this week and may not even make the cut, what on earth made you think it was a good idea to write your article about him ? there are 50 other guys with a more compelling case.

  • Comment number 2.

    For a lot of reasons there are a lot of people who would like to see Lee win a major and It is true to say he doesn't hole enough putts but his real weakness is still his chipping. I obviously don't know the lies he had for a particular shot but he too often fails to find a way to get up and down from around the green and I've known 7 handicappers to whom I would entrust a chip rather than rely on Lee. I don't understand why it's happening and it is a great pity because he plays tee to green as good as anyone who has ever played the game but he will not win a major if he can't correct the problem.

  • Comment number 3.

    Westwood's problem is his chipping and putting, at least he has the nerve to use a proper putter though. Watching the likes of Scott with the broom putter really annoys me, it's not his fault, if the rules allow it then you can't blame him. The trouble is the rules are wrong, having the nerve to use a conventional putter is a fundamental part of the game, if you haven't got the backbone to use a normal putter then it should be your problem. Can you imagine if all the top golfers used a broom? How awful the game would become.

  • Comment number 4.

    @3, what difference does it make what sort of putter you use, as long as it's legal?

    Many good golfers cannot putt, which makes the game far less enjoyable for them. Why shouldn't they use a legal method that can prevent them from missing two footers?

    Its not their fault they cant putt, good putters are born not made. If easier putting opens the game up for more people then so be it.

    Its a shame a golfer can work hard and develop the best all-round game yet not be able to win because they aren't blessed with a putting stroke.

  • Comment number 5.

    I don't think Westwood will win but he'll be up there. I hope it does happen for him but I can see him going through his career without winning a major.

    Have your say on who you think will win - http://sjvillersport.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/who-will-find-their-rhythm-at-lytham/

  • Comment number 6.

    Its true that one bad round does not destroy your tournament, but it does get your back up against the wall. Everyone knows golf is played as much in the head as on the course, and to me from what I've heard, Westwood is set to struggle.

    If it was one bad round as blip then I could understand the optimism, but I'm going off what Westy has said himself, and it sounds like he's not happy in his game. Probably too early to tell, but it does'nt lend to the credence that this was just a blip round.

    It's sad to see. Lee always seems to struggle when people expect him to do well. I keep maintaining that he will win when people have forgotten about him, the way people had forgoten about clarke before last year. I stand by that.

  • Comment number 7.

    1.At 23:52 19th Jul 2012, TheRealStelios wrote:
    why on earth are you even writing about westwood ? just a complete also-ran this year not even worthy of mention so many more worthwhile pieces you could have written.

    as I said on your other blog westwood will never win a major guaranteed, he freely admits he has a problem with his putter, never in the history of the game has anyone who has a problem on the greens won a major, its just not possible.

    now he's completely out of contention this week and may not even make the cut, what on earth made you think it was a good idea to write your article about him ? there are 50 other guys with a more compelling case.

    -------------

    Wow - what a truly arrogant 'I know better than everyone else' attitude. And from someone so ignorant of 'the history of the game' too. You don't have to go back to far in history to find Bernard Langer winning majors. Did he not have 'problems on the greens'? Would your 'guarantees' not have applied in that situation?

    Westwood is discussed precisely because of these issues - because he is a truly fantastic golfer, albeit with some weaknesses in his game, that he may or may not overcome to someday win a major. If you don't like reading about that, fine, but please don't subject the rest of us to your arrogance - I hate having to waste my time replying.

  • Comment number 8.

    I keep reading it is ok for different putters etc. Lets make all the game improvement clubs legal. What a shame they have a terrible putting stroke and so on.
    As a dinosaur, I think it has taken a lot of the skill out of the game. Players used to have to learn how to work the ball, flight the ball and it was a skill to develop.
    I know and understand the argument about getting more players to enjoy the game by making things so much easier, but does it really? As soon as you break 90 you want to break 80, then you want to be in catagory 1 , and so it continues. Courses being built now are dealing with that by being very long. Yet Lytham is not long, nor is a little gem like Lindrick, but takes skill to play as it tests so many shots.
    I would like to see ball technology go back a little, same with putters, and make part of the joy learning how to master certain skills.
    Oh, and speed up play as well, if I am having a wish list.
    All golfers had weekness', Jack Nicklaus said he was a poor wedge player, he compensated by wonderful course management. So Westwood has some weakness. Leave the man alone, accept him for what he is and has been, a tremendous golfer, far better than nearly everyone else over the last 20 years. I suppose Montgommerie was rubbish as well? Lucky bloke who won the European tour 8 times. Still never won a major, can't play, never could, no bottle blah blah blah.
    Some players win one major and virtually nothing else, never in the top 20 in the world let alone top 3 , which is better??

  • Comment number 9.

    7. At 05:46 20th Jul 2012, BigJoe wrote:
    ---------------------
    here here! pipe down #1 - grind one's axe elsewhere!

  • Comment number 10.

    I am not sure Westwood will win a major,he had a chance before and Tiger blitzed him,Westwood is just one of a number or english players,who have graced the top of the world rankings of late,and they all seem to be coming apart at the same time,they can all play great but they are all making the wrong decisions ,what club to play,how to play the hole and at Lytham with about 5 ways to play each hole,they are coming apart,Rory who did the best out of the trio ,if he had not hit the spectator and lost two strokes he would have been right up there,I suppose golf is all about decisions look at the leader grabbed a great caddy and he is away.

  • Comment number 11.

    Oh dear. I bet all those pundits, and there were many of them, tipping Lee to win this week are feeling a little silly now?

    To be honest, I feel a little sorry for Lee. There is a lot of expectation on Lee coming from people who realy should know better. The press and media (mostly English, and I say this as an Englishman) talk about his "consistency", citing his numerous 2nd and 3rd place finishes in Majors. The Americans have a word for that too- they call it "Losing."

    There comes a point where people have to stop putting Lee's lack of a Major down to 'Bad Luck' and instead look at somebody who has been in contention so many times but has never got the job done. That's not Bad Luck, but not being good enough (in Lee's case, I think it's the stuff between the ears). But still all I hear is talk of 'Definitley this year.' There's one particular golf correspondant who loves to slag off Rory McIlroy (Major Champion at 22, lapped the field in doing so) for having the audacity to take a few weeks off before a Major but bows down to The Almightly Westwood, whose Major cabinet is as bare as Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard.

    Lee is a geat ball-striker, from tee-to-green he's among the best in the world. This has been acknowledged for some time. If Major Championships were contested on driving ranges, he'd probabaly have a Grand Slam. But they aren't. What comment #1 says is true to a great extent; no player has ever putted badly and won a Major. That doesn't preclude a reputedly poor putter from having a better-than-usual week: Langer has alreday been cited by an earlier poster, whilst this years Masters Champion, Bubba Watson, is near the bottom of the PGA Tour's 'Strokes gained in putting' statistic. But Lee will find it far harder going if he doesn't putt to his absolute best. Those with decent memories may recall that after 2 rounds at Royal St George's last year, Lee led the field in faiways and greens hit in regulation.

    He missed the halfway cut.

    On a links you will never find yourself perfectly positioned after every tee shot and every approach shot- the wind, the exposed nature of the corses and the undulating fairways and greens see to that. What you need to have is a game that can keep your round going when you get a bad break. Westwood does not have this. His putting is a best 'streaky,' and at worst downright poor. His chipping is amateur-level at times.

    This is not meant to be a personal attack on Lee- he seems personable enough, and he's not guilty of anything other than being a good golfer whose chances get talked up too much. But people need to realise that Lee's fairways-and-greens game is no match for a short-game wizard with a can't-miss putting stroke.

  • Comment number 12.

    Westwood is a good enough player to win multiple majors but the very highest level of sport is about that last 2 percent of what happens between the ears. We see that with many sports people in various different pursuits. Are you listening Andy Murray?

    Westwood is not out of this tournament but he will need to shoot something very low today to give himself a platform to build from. Given that the last 15 majors have been won by different players, I see no reason why Westwood cannot win one himself, the British open is probably to big an ask though.

    Every player has weaknesses in their game and the key is to improve those areas or simply adapt your game so they are less of a problem. The argument that Westwood will never win a major because his putting is poor doesn't really work. Darren Clarke is a very ordinary putter but his name is on the Claret Jug. Also Lee has won many 72 hole tournaments in his career so it must be a mental block where the majors are concerned.

    Golf, probably more than any sport is about controlling yourself mentally. Touch and technique are not enough if the thought processes are not correct. The pressure of the majors is stifling Westwood which seems strange considering how well he handles and plays in the Ryder cup.

    For the tournament as a whole, if the conditions get worse anything can happen but if they stay clement, Woods, Zach Johnson and Mcdowell will be hard to beat. Woods in particular looked in control of everything yesterday. Adam Scott is another one that has the tools to win but is yet to prove the mental strength.

    As always though, predictions are something of a waste of time in the Open championship. One poor tee shot can take a player right out of the equation. The margins are paper thin.....

  • Comment number 13.

    It's simply a case of the old adage, really:
    You can't win the Championship on the first day, but you can certainly lose it.
    Maybe Lee (and Luke for that matter) need to go a little 'low-key' prior to the Open.
    I still find it incredible when a player says something like "My game suits the Open" or similar. If it does, it won't be a problem winning it then, will it?
    Basically, ease off on the predisctions, go about your preperation quietly and methodically and try and remain 'the grey man' for a little while, it'd certainly help.

  • Comment number 14.

    lol langer did have problems on the greens, thats when he stopped winning majors. he changed putter and has won again on the seniors. theres nothing arrogant about it its just logical, nobody who is admiteddly a bad putter has ever won a major, westwood admits to being a bad putter thats not coming from me he says that, therefore unless he fixes that he'll never win one, his career so far is the best testament to that.

  • Comment number 15.

    and if you hate having to reply you could you now not reply, especially since your reply contributed nothing at all to the debate.

  • Comment number 16.

    number 8 good question about which is better, would monty swap his career for lawries ? he would say he wouldnt but I bet privately he would

  • Comment number 17.

    #4 if you're a poor driver or chipper you have to practise that discipline, if you can't improve on your shortcomings that's your problem and you will never win anything. If you can't put you just get a long putter, the worst putter in the game can become an acceptable putter with a broom in a week.

  • Comment number 18.

    I remember Nick de Paul, Seve's caddie during his iconic Open triumph in 1984, once saying there are hundreds of golfers who can drive down the middle, hit the greens and make a putt now and then - it makes dough but it doesn't make a champion. He described how Seve would find a way to get the job done and he would simply get the ball in the hole quicker than the rest!

    I really admire lee Westwood and his ball striking is imperious but he definitely has something missing in his armoury - that champion's mentality; to hang in there, to fight for everything and to cease the moment when it arrives. Seve had plenty of days when his swing wasn't quite there but usually he had the ability and the sheer grit to turn a 73 into a 69. I just don't think Lee Westwood has that in him, but I sincerely hope he proves me wrong.

  • Comment number 19.

    @17 Seve was a poor driver, but he still won five majors and played incredible golf whilst doing so.

    Likewise Phil Mickelson doesn't drive the ball very well, but rather than work on it he prefers to focus on Augusta, a course which seems built specifically for him.

    Nick Faldo couldn't put any length on his drives, yet he won majors simply because other players missed crucial putts.

    You can get away with being a poor driver or, golf is ultimately decided by putting as others have said. That's why Lee Westwood has less majors than inferior players like Ben Curtis, Michael Campbell and Andy North.

  • Comment number 20.

    72 holes, one aim to post the lowest score. A simple game.

    Westwood has shown time and time again, he can win events. If winning a major, is a stumbling block for Westwood, you have to ask how do majors differ from other events.

    Does Westwood disregard all that is needed for other tournaments, when it comes to competing in a major? Or is it the actual event that is the problem, are they so different in make up away from the course?

    I think we must all accept that pre major and during the major, they are like no other event in golf. The entire golfing world's focus, is on the build up and the 4 days of golf and that creates a different environment, although mostly, it is away from the course itself.

    It may simply be a case that Westwood dislikes or finds the major environment overbearing and therefore cannot produce 4 solid rounds of golf. He may be conscious of it, or totally unaware that it is happening. That can certainly never be classed as choking, in a so called big one.

    Some players may win a major and very little else in a career, it can make a mockery of the importance placed on a major. Winning just one means that for 4 days, a player was at the absolute peak of his career in terms of competing but rarely approaching the same level again.

    Westwood, the media or an army of golfing supporters, I just wonder if Westwood does not achieve a single win in a major tournament, who will eventually place the most importance to the fact.

  • Comment number 21.

    Firstly,

    I am sick of the BBC and their constant negativety. Yesterday on 5 live they were questioning Jeremy Hunt and brought up the point 2 buses had gone missing when delivering athletes around london - why do they do that? what about the 200 that didnt get lost and where is the well done for the logistical brilliance with the torch relay?????

    stop trying to be the daily mail!

    So here, after one day of the Open we are already writing westwood off. instead of a blog about mcilroy and his great temperament in salvaging a 67 with birdies on 16 & 17????

    Westwood has shot many many rounds in the low 60's so is capable of getting it together - okay he probably won't but can we not get behind our boys for a change please??

  • Comment number 22.

    Well with the struggles of the morning starters so far, Westwood might have a chance of making the cut, it's been a curious morning so far with little movement so far from the big names

    http://carlothesportsman.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/open-championship-day-1-thoughts/

  • Comment number 23.

    therealstelios @16

    number 8 good question about which is better, would monty swap his career for lawries ? he would say he wouldnt but I bet privately he would
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Your presuming too much.

    He may well look at it and think Lawries career for mine, 'no thank you'

    He may well be thinking. I competed at majors consistently being runner up 5 times, I was always there in the mix. I dominated Europe winning the tour countless times by winning countless events. I was considered one of the all time great Ryder Cup players, being a major part of the winning teams and also captained a winning Ryder Cup team to glory.

    Yes ask Monty if he would like to swap places with Lawrie by all means but it is never as cut and dried as you put it.

    I would never presume the answer to a question like that.

  • Comment number 24.

    Just needs to go 66 66 69.

    No probs.

  • Comment number 25.

    Westwood and Donald in golf and Murray in another sport have a common problem when it comes to the "big" ones and its all in the space between their ears. No one can win the tournaments that they do without technical ability, but to win the ones that make legends of men they need a little extra mental ability.

    The reason a number of also ran journeymen have won majors and then fallen off the radar quicker than a weasel down a drainpipe is because on that one week their mental game was cooking.

    Biggest major winners on tour through time including Hagen, Hogan, Snead, Palmer, Nicklaus, Watson, Ballesteros, Faldo, Woods etc etc - all had or have a killer mental game - they believed, nay they knew they were going to win - as Hagen once famously asked "Who's going to be second ?"

    Age does not diminish technical ability in golf as quickly as in other sports - ask Tom Watson, but it does reduce mental competitiveness and that is why with each passing major I fear Westwood will not get off the mark, but even though I don't much care for the guy, I do hope he bags one before he puts the clubs away for good.

  • Comment number 26.

    How likely could it be that Westwood finishes the day ahead of Rory, didn't look likely this morning but Rory is making a hash of things and suddenly it's a possibility if Westwood can post an under par round

    http://carlothesportsman.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/open-championship-day-1-thoughts/

  • Comment number 27.

    Golf is at its best when someone charging, wins on the final day, rather than a leader falling over. Either way you take it. No doubt Westwood is good enough to win a major. Many less deserving have won Opens recently and that is golf all over. You don't win a tennis major these days unless you're in the top three players. In golf there are many contenders despite what Montgomerie says.

  • Comment number 28.

    simoc @27

    So true.

    Golf is one of those sports, where at the very top level, we consistently see what most would call 'a turn up for the books' at the end of 4 rounds of golf. It is truly competetive when it comes to the numbers who can actually win a tournament and it certainly applies when it comes to majors.

    The saving grace is that most can look back with hindsight and seek just how it was done. But it never stops it from happening time and time again.

  • Comment number 29.

    The concept of measuring golfers by major wins is obsolete, there is a levelling up of standards so that almost anyone in a major field can win if it's their week. Unlike tennis there is no real indication that the majors are any more of a test than many of the other tournaments Winning and placing consistently is what counts. Donald and Westwood are better players than for instance Immelman, Oosthuizen, Schwartzel, Clarke, Cabrera, Glover, etc and this will still be the case even if they never win a major.

  • Comment number 30.

    I really wish that all sport and news reporters would do just that, report the news , not make ill informed comments and opinions about things they make it very clear they know not an awful lot about.
    These comments certainly dont hold much water coming from someone such as the author of this piece.

  • Comment number 31.

    Fed up with warching the Open. It is all Tiger Woods. I have watched fror 2 hours and no mention of Lee Westwood. Always the same. Don't know why the media don't like Lee.
    Won't watch any more. Tiger's style of playing is just not interesting. Iron off the tee fdor safety. OK it works but where is the excitement.

  • Comment number 32.

    Phil Mickelson is exciting to watch but he is 11 over par and probably boarding his private plane as we speak.

  • Comment number 33.

    Westwood makes the cut as does Tom Watson. Wow.

  • Comment number 34.

    Major winners have to be truly great putters.... Hmmm. So I'm thinking of a list here
    Vijay singh
    Bernard Langer
    Lee travino
    must surely account for at least 10 major wins between them. None of them were exactly world beating putters... Who else would get on list? Please feel free to add

  • Comment number 35.

    at the time they won majors they were, ask any of them theyll tell you the weeks they won were some of their best ever putting weeks, langer for example is regarded as having a problem with the putter cause of some high profile misses (kiawah island) and problems he had later in his career, but when he won majors he putted like a demon, they all do Ill say it again it is impossible, completely impossible, to win a major whilst not putting very very well, go and watch the highlights of every major for the last 50 years the winner putted well that week I guarantee you, do you have any idea how well you would have to strike the ball to win one whilst not putting very well ? nobody has ever hit the ball that well.

  • Comment number 36.

    I believe Westwood will win a major one day! Just not this weekend. The reason i am confident of this? He is moving to the US full time....If he didn't have the hunger or inclination to improve his weaknesses (putting), he wouldn't go. He for sure don't need the cash! He may never win The Open......But the ruthless PGA tour, will stand him in good stead for the other 3 majors stateside.

  • Comment number 37.

    thats a very good point actually didnt think of that, playing there will definitely improve his touch on the fast US greens giving him a better chance of winning one of their majors.

  • Comment number 38.

    @12 barca

    For the tournament as a whole, if the conditions get worse anything can happen but if they stay clement, Woods, Zach Johnson and Mcdowell will be hard to beat. Woods in particular looked in control of everything yesterday. Adam Scott is another one that has the tools to win but is yet to prove the mental strength.

    Well done barca...Brilliant picks.....Hope you are a gambling man?

    @ TRStelios
    Hope you are enjoying Woods! I like the way you offer logic, and reasoning for your thoughts..regardless of the outcome. You are not a typical, Woods is gonna win- just because he's Tiger Woods poster.

    Should be an exciting Sunday, if the wind blows.

  • Comment number 39.

    As nice a bloke and as good a golfer as Westwood is i think his chance of winning a major are gone, although i don't think winning a major determines if you are a great golfer or not as many great players in the past have failed to win a major ( Monty ) and many average golfers have won one ( Paul Lawrie ). I would still consider Westwood a great golfer even if he fails to win a major.

 

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.