Lee Westwood’s Win Could Herald Even Bigger Things for 2020
So Lee Westwood has won again – at the tender age of 46, just four years shy of a spot on the European Senior Tour, Worksop’s finest has come back to the winners fold at the 2020 Abu Dhabi Championship. Did you see it coming? If you did you’re a rare breed, for despite a brief resurgence at last year’s Open and victory at the Nedbank Challenge, the last few years have been torrid ones for Big Lee. Many had written him off – he’s too long in the tooth, over the hill, memories of those perennial three stabs loomed large. “He’s finished,” a friend of mine boldly declared as we watched Lee crumble on the Sunday at the Open over chips, “the Seniors Tour can’t come too quickly enough”. But me, my friend and the ‘haters’ were wrong. Westwood still has gas in the tank. And the question is no longer how much longer he’s got, but how far it can take him.
The signs for the new year look good. What really impressed me about Westwood’s win in the desert was more than just the victory itself – no mean feat for a bloke of his age – but the manner in which he achieved it. Never, in recent years at least, have I seen him look so calm and so collected, so utterly in control of himself and his ball. Even when he shot 65 on Saturday, two shots better than the 67 which capped off the tournament the day later, Westwood didn’t look as chilled as he did on Sunday, and, if he did, he was playing under a lot less pressure. Sunday, at least in the biggest events, usually causes problems for Westy, but here he was, nearing 50, and calmly notching up birdies enroute to a two shot win. The slimness of his overnight lead, just the one shot, heaped on extra pressure. What of it? Westwood remained cool.
And then there was his putter – anything but cool, which makes a welcome change from the trend of previous years. Westwood’s long game has always been up there with the best of them, but the putter has often let him down – that jabbed two footer in the 2016 Ryder Cup, the final hole three wack at Turnberry are just the stand outs of an career-spanning rollcall of bad strokes. But like his Ryder Cup buddy, Sergio Garcia, Westwood has begun experimenting with different grips and looks to finally have stumbled upon the answer with the ‘claw’. Okay, so it not the prettiest of ways to putt, but did you see how confident he looked on the greens, how imperiously, inevitably, he’s stroking them in?
Mention of Garcia brings to mind the 2020 Masters, now only a few months away. And let’s not forget, it was with a ‘claw’ putting stroke that the Spaniard claimed the 2017 event. Does this bode well for Westwood? I’m not superstitious, but I do think that the Englishman has turned a corner and looks ready to win his first major. Why shouldn’t it come at Augusta, a place where he’s done well before, most notably in 2010 when he led going into the final round, but just missed out to a resurgent Phil Mickelson? Also, his veteran status means that he knows the course and with his renewed putting stroke, he’s well placed to make hay on the tricky Georgia greens.
So will 2020 finally be the year for Westwood? We’ll just have to see. For now, let’s just bask in the glory of Abu Dhabi. Augusta and the quest for that elusive first major comes later.
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