VIRGINIA WATER, England – Second place in this year’s Masters has put Lee Westwood’s career back on track, the Englishman admitted before the $5.5 million BMW PGA Championship.
Westwood’s form has suffered over the last year, partly because of splitting up with wife Laurae. The 43-year-old had slipped to 67th in the world before Augusta. He hasn’t won since the 2014 Malaysian Masters.
“I think when you haven’t played well for a long time, then you do start to have doubts in your mind,” Westwood said.
That’s why he turned up for the first major of the year with low expectations.
“I played average at the Match Play and poorly at Houston, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t have too many expectations going into the Masters. I was hoping to basically try and get a top 10, trying to get an invite back for next year. So to actually get into contention and have a chance of winning was a real bonus.”
The runner-up finish has helped him climb back up the official world golf ranking. He’s now 35th. It also ensured he will play in the year’s second major.
“It’s nice to secure places in the big tournaments for the rest of the year. I wasn’t exempt into the U.S. Open, so that was the only one I was really looking for a good finish for, but obviously it made a big impression on the money list, world rankings and Ryder Cup rankings.”
That Masters finish has helped him convince good friend Darren Clarke that he shouldn’t be overlooked for this year’s Ryder Cup team. Westwood has played in nine straight European teams.
“It was nice to give Darren a nudge that I could still play golf under pressure against the best players in the world.”
The 23-time European Tour winner took five weeks off after Augusta to be with children Sam and Poppy. He now lives in Edinburgh, Scotland to be close to his family. He returned to action last week in Ireland and finished T-10.
“I was a bit rusty the first couple of days, but managed to hang in there and get myself in a decent position. If I had holed a few more putts over the weekend, I probably would have given myself a chance of winning. It was nice to come off five weeks and play well.
“It never takes long for golfers to snap out of it. We’re a pretty dumb breed. We’re only one good shot, really, from a comeback. You start to feel the right things in your golf swing, and it can have an almost immediate effect. I’ll just see a couple of putts go in, and starting the ball on line, it can change in the click of a finger.”
Westwood is making his 23rd start in Europe’s flagship event. He is yet to win Europe’s biggest event outside the majors and WGCs, although he has two runner-ups.
No one would be surprised if he changed that with a win this week.