As the green blazer settled down onto the shoulders of Bubba Watson late on Sunday evening, one man in particular would have been looking on with particular sorrow. Left in a frustratingly close tied third with a score of 8-under par, that man was England’s Lee Westwood.
Westwood is an extreme talent, of that there is no doubt. His record boasts an impressive thirty-seven professional wins, his presence in the last seven European Ryder Cup teams have been as vital as any, and in recent years, his world ranking has rarely faltered from outside the top three. However, a golfer’s legacy is so often measured in major wins, and in this area, Westwood’s cupboard is bare.
So why has a player of such class, now at 38 years of age, never secured himself one of golf’s biggest prizes? - Perhaps, as one argument suggests, the Workhsop man possesses a game designed for quiet consistency, rather than one of explosive, risk-taking flair.
Bubba Watson must be the Jekyll to Westwood’s Hyde. Sunday’s champion is a man who confesses to have never had a golf lesson, and who’s swing is best described as ‘unorthodox’. The American hits a very big ball, and has an unnerving ability to pull incredible shots from nowhere, but inconsistency across a years golf means that he is unlikely to ever threaten the top of the sport’s merit table. However, Watson’s unpredictable style and mentality means that when luck is on his side over four rounds, few would back against him adding to his first major win.
And then there’s Westy. Would Westwood have attempted, let alone pulled off, Watson’s incredible, championship-winning second shot on the second extra play-off hole? No, he wouldn’t. Britain does not breed its sportsmen with flair and glamour, and their golfers are perhaps their most gleaning example.
It is fair to say that had his putting been on form this weekend, then he would have wrestled the green jacket from Bubba’s back. But it wasn’t, and he, along with the similarly uncrowned Luke Donald, is still major-less. It is questionable as to whether putting, by far the most fallible part of Westwood’s game, is well enough equipped to cope with pressure-cooker events. It certainly wasn’t this time out.
Indeed, perhaps the weight of expectation is becoming too heavy. The load of thirteen top-ten finishes in major competitions sits hard on Westwood’s shoulders, and all the talk in the build up to the Masters, and the last few majors preceding it, were about whether he or Donald could break their duck. Of course, neither have yet to do so, and with every passing opportunity, the pressure grows.
If Lee Westwood does go on to secure his a major win this year, then he will be one of the most popular winners of modern times, and few would argue that he does not deserve such an accolade. What is for sure, is that aged thirty-eight, time may not be on his side. The battle resumes at the US Open Championship on 14th June, at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
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