Westwood comfortable being uncomfortable

By Jason SobelAugust 9, 2013, 6:32 pm

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – His brawny arms protrude from beneath short sleeves, his barrel-like chest unobstructed by extra layers. The bottoms of his pantlegs are hued three shades darker from trudging through a steady midsummer rain all morning.

Lee Westwood walks with the demeanor of a man who prefers a stiff downpour over a petty drizzle. His fellow competitors compensate for the rain. They wear two gloves. They constantly wipe their hands with towels. They implore caddies to hold umbrellas directly over them like portable butlers.

Westwood doesn't compensate. Take away the moisture framing his background and you wouldn't know whether he's playing golf in rain, heat or anything else. Perhaps that's a nod to the Englishman's hometown of Worksop, where dreary, overcast conditions might as well be a fixture on the daily weather report.

PGA Championship: Articles, videos and photos

It could explain his relative success in two days of rain at the PGA Championship, posting scores of 66-73 to get into contention on yet another major weekend.

Here's another theory: Maybe Westwood is just comfortable being uncomfortable.

Much like learning to thrive in wet conditions, this, too, isn't something a man is born with. Westwood has become accustomed to being comfortable in uncomfortable situations, the result of so many years of close calls and tough breaks that have earned him the game's most backhanded compliment of a title: Best Player Never To Have Won A Major.

On the surface, that notion may sound like it has all the gravity of Best Surfer Never To Have Been In The Ocean, but it is indeed a position worth claiming. Westwood is playing in his 63rd career major this week – but he’s never won. He has claimed 16 top-10 major finishes – but he’s never won. He’s poached eight results of third or better – but he’s never won.

Such numbers should render obsolete any debate for another player to stake claim to this unwanted title. Neither Luke Donald nor Brandt Snedeker nor Sergio Garcia nor Steve Stricker hold Westwood’s dubious record of most places and shows without a win. For a man who owns a share of about 20 thoroughbred racehorses, he has a keen understanding of what these close-but-no-victory-cigar finishes really mean.

Of course, being comfortable in uncomfortable situations isn’t synonymous with being complacent. Westwood has done everything in his power to dislodge himself from that dreaded superlative of a title in trying to become just another run-of-the-mill one-time major champion.

On the eve of his 40th birthday earlier this year, Westwood moved his family from England to the elite golfer hotbed of South Florida, where he can practice year-round without having to train in those very conditions which seem trivial to him in the first place. “Practice conditions are brilliant,” he says with a smile. “It's nice living in shorts.”

That’s hardly the only change he’s made. Already known as one of the world’s preeminent ball-strikers, Westwood has enlisted noted instructor Sean Foley – he of the Tiger Woods and Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan camps – for a few pointers with his swing, less technical pearls of wisdom than theoretical ones. A long-time sufferer of putting woes, he started asking Ian Baker-Finch for a few tips here and there. And three weeks ago at the Open Championship, he sat down with famed sports psychologist Ross Mackenzie for an impromptu session.

That Sunday at Muirfield was the latest of those eight career top-three results at majors, as he turned the 54-hole lead into a share of third place. Another close call could be enough to leave most guys stomping mad with frustration, but Westwood has grown comfortable with these uncomfortable situations.

Which may also serve to explain the end of his round on Thursday here at Oak Hill Country Club. Three strokes behind leader Adam Scott with two holes to play, those brawny arms flaring and the bottom of his drenched pantlegs scraping across the closely mown greens, Westwood runs into the sort of trouble that always seems to follow him at majors.

He misses a short bogey putt on the eighth hole – his 17th of the day – then misses another short attempt for par on the ninth. A laudable round has turned decidedly shaky at the end, rendering him further from contention than he was just minutes earlier. He’s been here before, though. What he says after the round speaks to his ability to remain content in the face of adversity.

“Obviously, I would have liked to have finished par-par,” he admits, “but I’m in red figures going into the weekend and still have a chance.”

From heavy rains to untimely missed putts to a career that so far has defined him as the best player without a major championship, Westwood has often found himself in uncomfortable situations. It’s a good thing he’s learned to be so comfortable in them.

Getty Images

What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

Getty Images

Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

Getty Images

Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.