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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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.
Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.
"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"
The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.
"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.
Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."
Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.
Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.
"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."
Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.
When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.
The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.
The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.