What makes Westwood special
"So what makes Lee Westwood so special?" It was my opening question to Westwood's coach Pete Cowen after the Englishman usurped Tiger Woods as world number one.
The answer was unexpected - I was waiting for something along the lines of great driver of a golf ball or something - but it encapsulated his rise to the top of the rankings.
"He's very comfortable in uncomfortable situations," said Cowen. "It means he wants to be where it hurts. That's what all great sportsmen can do; they can cope with adversity very well."
Translated to the golf course that suggests Westwood relishes the pressure of the big occasion, thriving and embracing the situation when others might buckle.
Number one Lee Westwood sets his sights on a major title
"He's always had it," says Cowen. "As a kid he was always confident with his ability."
The pair first teamed up in 1995 and by 2000 Westwood had reached number four in the world. But then he went his own way, dabbling with other coaches and other methods, searching for the answer, the quick fix to the top. He plummeted to 266th before tackling adversity head on and beginning the long fight back.
"I always tell my players the road to success is always under construction, you never actually get there," says Cowen.
"There's a light at the end of the tunnel but some think there's a short cut to it. Lee did a bit of that in early 2001. But all these deviations off the straight and narrow are all dead ends. You never lose your ability but you think you lose it. He had the answer all along, all we had to do was get his short game a bit sharper and keep working."
Cowen and Westwood worked on-off before getting back together again full-time two years ago. Along with sports scientist Steve McGregor, the trio threw the kitchen sink at it.
"Lee wanted to do everything right so we said: 'Your body has got to be in great shape to do what we want you to do with your golf swing.' Steve has got to take a lot of credit for that."
The main changes were improving the muscle structure in Westwood's shoulders and core.
"To play under pressure you've got to have some stability," says Cowen. "I think the biggest problem in the golf swing is the lack of stability in the shoulders.
"The golf swing is pretty simple. The body is the engine, the arms and the club movement are the steering wheel. You can have a car with a great engine and steering wheel but if the linkage between the two is poor the car will still drive terribly. So we worked hard on the shoulders. Once his body was tuned it made my job easier."
"If my players get a five from me they're doing very well and Lee's probably now at four and a half," said Cowen. "So if he can get to number one when I'm giving him 4.5 out of 10 who knows what he can do.
"He's becoming a really good bunker player, with all different types of shots from different types of lies. It's making sure he picks the right shot at the right time.
"For the long game I'll probably give him seven. He's the best ball striker in the world and he's a great putter, fearless. Again, I'd say seven."
The pair often meet up three times a week when Westwood's at home. A typical day might involve gym work in the morning, then two hours short-game work, another couple of hours on the long game and half an hour or so of putting.
"Anything up to five hours for quality practice, that's all that's needed," says Cowen. "I've done more punishing practice myself and I don't think that's the answer. It has to be purposeful practice."
Lee Westwood holes a 30-foot putt at the Ryder Cup
Instead of banging balls on the range, the pair will work on spin control, ball flight - including reducing the amount of shape on shots - ball penetration, and accuracy.
"There's more to it than just working on the swing," says Cowen.
"Deviation factor is massive in golf. It's not the good shots we're worried about, it's how good the bad shots are. We set ourselves a deviation pattern of five yards left or right and five yards long or short. It's simplifying it so that his iron shots are stunning. Most people saw that at the Ryder Cup - every iron shot was hunting the flag."
The lack of a major victory will continue to dog Westwood but Cowen believes it is only a matter of time.
"He knows he's good enough and he knows what it takes to win majors," he says.
"He's played in three this year and finished second in two. You can't do much more than that. He's got to be patient and that chance will come again. When that door opens I'm sure he'll walk through it.
"Jack Nicklaus said many years ago that he was given more tournaments than he won. He just stayed in the present, did what he was good at and other people folded around him. Sometimes you don't win, other people lose. In golf you can only control what you're doing and Lee's able to control himself better than anybody at the moment."
But judging by what Cowen says, it sounds like he'll be more than comfortable with the target on his back.