Westwood Goes Full Circle With Slump
He met David Leadbetter there and he set out to remake a golf swing that once had routinely been in the worlds top 10. Now, he was wallowing around near the 240th position. Something had to be done ' either he would improve, or he would pursue another line of work.
And he did improve. A refresher course came for three weeks beginning in August. And this time when he went back to Europe, he immediately won the BMW in Munich. Before the month was over he had done it again, sweeping to victory in the Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews.
Somewhere in America, a completely befuddled David Duval had to take note. Duval has been in a terrible tailspin that threatens to careen completely out of control. Duval has already been king of the mountain, No. 1 in the world. Hes already enlisted Leadbetters services. He only has to come 170 miles from his home in Ponte Vedra to see Lord Lead, not journey all the way from Worksop, England. And if Duval needs any encouragement that things are going to be better, he need only focus on those two words ' Lee Westwood.
Westwood is back in the States today, preparing for a try at the Buick Invitational near San Diego. Maybe its time for Duval ' the golfing public, actually ' to heed the words Westwood said when he won last year.
First of all, theres no magic elixir, no magical revelation. Ben Hogan said the only way to figure out the correct swing is to find it in the dirt. Westwood said the same thing, in different terminology.
There is no magic cure, said Lee. You've got to just keep grinding and working hard and working hard on the things that you - the fundamentals and the things that you believe in, really.
Of course, he couldnt have done it nearly so quickly were it not for Leadbetter. And surprisingly, the initial steps that Westwood made didnt involve a club and ball.
First, I went to see him, he really sat me down instead of standing on the range ' try this, try this, try this, said Westwood. He had a clear, identifiable path that made a lot of sense to me and a good route to go down. That was the Eureka moment. I could see where I was coming from and where we were going.
Leadbetter and Westwood were on the same page as far as what was wrong. I told him the things I didn't like in my swing and he agreed, said Lee. He told me things that he thought weren't right and where I might be able to improve, and if I improved those, it might be able to do to shape the ball flight and stuff like that.'
And when he finally was allowed to get out the clubs and walk over to the range, he was overwhelmed by the change that took place.
I saw a massive improvement in my swing in the first couple of days, in February, but the difficult thing is taking that onto the first tee and having the confidence to kind of switch off and just free-wheel it and let what you're working on on the practice tee go into your game on the course.
So it took five or six months to really trust it ' the swing changes he had made. He knew he had the road map back ' but the directions seemed weird.
Just the smallest change feels massive. It's timing, as well. It just throws all that off, said Westwood.
But gradually it began to feel more like a golf swing. In February, about a month after he began to make the changes, he started feeling comfortable again. Slowly, ever so slowly, he began putting everything together. The 10 or so things that he was working on so hard began to mesh into one solid swing. He says he still has more to do before he climbs all the way back, but he is surely getting there.
You do start to doubt, he dutifully confessed. Two and a half years is a long time to play poorly. You're never quite sure what's going to happen. I felt if I did get it back that if I had a chance I might be able to carry it through and just switch onto automatic or whatever you want to call it. I never lost belief that when I got into a position that I would win. But it was starting to look like I wasn't going to get a chance to win.
He had rapidly gone from bad to worse, and the gaffes that had set into his swing had made him into a different player. He hardly recognized the Lee Westwood of old.
When you're playing poorly, you are not as aggressive with your iron shots, he said. So you don't go for as many flags. You are putting more at 40, 50 feet more often. Puts your short game under pressure when you are not playing well and you are missing greens, and when you do miss greens you are not think about getting up-and-down.
Being in an awful slump, though, is not ALL bad. Sometimes, in fact, it might be a good thing.
I learned a lot about myself and the way I think, Westwood said. I learned a lot about the people around me that work with me. It's not been a completely bad thing playing poorly, if you know what I mean. I'd rather have not done it, but that experience will help me in the future.
So, it seems, this experience is bound to help Duval. Going through bad times makes one appreciate the good times. And Westwood hopes all his times in the future are good times.
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If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it
NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.
She says she always gets nervous starting a round.
You don’t believe it, though.
She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .
Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .
Or disarming ticking bombs . . .
“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.
Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.
Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.
Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.
At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.
She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.
She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.
And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.
There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.
Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.
It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.
Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.
Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.
“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”
About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.
Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.
“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”
David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.
“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”
Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.
Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . .
“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.
Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.
“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”
Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.
“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.
Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.
National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.
The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.
Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.
These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:
Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.
This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.
“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”
Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.
In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.
If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.
“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”
Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.
Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.
''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''
The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.
The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.
''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''
Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.
''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''
First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).
Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.
''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.
''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''