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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Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.
The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.
The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.
This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.
After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.
“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”
Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.
Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.
“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”
Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.
To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.
“More punishment,” he said.
DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.
Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.
Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.
Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.
It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.
With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.
Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.
TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:
• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.
• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.
• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery.
• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”
• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.
• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.
• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.