ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Has Lee Westwood finally found the X factor? He hopes so.
Westwood opens his season in the $2.7 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship with much hope that he has found the answer to the weakest part of his game.
The Englishman tees off in Abu Dhabi with renewed confidence in his putting. The World No. 2 closed out last year by winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa and the Thailand Golf Championship. He claims he did it by holing putts he hasn’t been able to make throughout his career.
“The most pleasing thing was about four weeks prior to that, I started working with Phil Kenyon, my new putting coach,” Westwood said. “To shoot 62 around Sun City and then shoot 60 and 64 around the course in Thailand, you need to start making a few 15-footers, which I’ve been missing for the previous 17 years.
“Once they start going in, you turn what would have been a good round of 65 into a 60 or 62.”
There have never been any question marks over Westwood’s long game. He’s renowned as one of the best drivers in the game; his iron play isn’t too shabby either. By common consent, his short game has held him back.
The Englishman might have won one of the tournaments that really count instead of the frustration of six top-3 finishes in majors over the past three years.
“It’s very difficult to win a major without making a few (putts) that are surprising, or bonuses, which I haven’t holed over the last few years. If I can start rolling in a few 25-30-footers that I have not been making, that’s obviously going to make a massive difference.”
Kenyon is a disciple of putting guru Harold Swash. Kenyon has worked with Darren Clarke, Martin Kaymer, Ross Fisher, Edoardo Molinari, Thomas Bjorn and many other European Tour pros.
“The difference with Phil is that my practice is a lot more structured and based around drills to make sure I do the same thing over and over again,” Westwood said.
Westwood thinks improvement on the greens will feed through the rest of his game.
“It helps your whole game. It gives you confidence. If you start making putts that you haven’t been making, then it takes pressure off your long game. You can be a bit more aggressive at certain flags. You’re not afraid of short-siding yourself because if you come out of the trap to, say, 10 feet, you’re confident of holing it.
“So it does take pressure off the rest of your game.”
For the normally taciturn Englishman, the above was much more detail than he normally goes into. Not surprisingly, he quickly brought the subject to a complete halt.
“I’m not answering any more questions on putting,” he said.
He doesn’t have to. He’ll start answering those questions this week, and more fully in this year’s major championships. Only time will tell if he’s found the missing ingredient that’s so far prevented him from entering that special locker room reserved for major champions.