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‘It took a while to get the hang of playing in majors – now there’s nothing stopping me’

Lee Westwood has won 44 professional golf tournaments – including 25 on the European Tour and two on the PGA Tour. He’s played in 10 Ryder Cups, winning seven, and has eyes on a record-equalling cap at Whistling Straits in September. He is one of just 24 players to reach World No 1 and amassed north of £50 million in prize money in a career that’s spanned more than quarter of a century.

But there is one achievement that eludes the Englishman.

Who are the best players yet to win a major? An age-old question, the answers to which Westwood often features.

Now in his late 40s, Westwood is having something of a career revival. He’s got his fiancee and “secret weapon“, Helen Storey, on his bag and he’s fitter than he’s ever been.

But it’s competing for golf’s four biggest titles that has been the source of most frustration.

“It took me a while to get the hang of playing in major championships,” Westwood explains while speaking on The Open Podcast. “I was always a bit too keen and excited, and I made too many mistakes coming out of the blocks which played me out of tournaments.

“It is a different mindset playing in major championships, you have got to be much more patient and have a better game plan.”

The trend is clear when you look at Westwood’s major championship form over his career. Between 1995 and 2000, Westwood made four top 10s in 18 majors. When you compare that to the six-year period between 2010 and 2016, he made 10 top 10s in 27 attempts.

Experience, of course, plays a part, but as Westwood highlights there is also an element of preparation and execution in the big events, and it is that combination he believes he can use to his advantage.

“I feel like majors give me the best chance,” he says. “I have got more experience now, and I feel like majors are the tournaments where you need a lot of experience.”

With consecutive runner-up finishes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Players Championship in the run-up to the Masters, Westwood has jumped back into the world’s top 20 for the first time since the BMW Championship in 2013. This form has got everyone discussing Westwood as a major contender again – starting with the Green Jacket.

Runner-up finishes in both 2010 and 2016 remain Westwood’s joint best finish at Augusta and despite his advancing years he feels there is enough juice in the tank to contend. 

“I am still fit,” he says. “There is nothing that physically stops me from playing at the highest level, so major championships should be the ones where I can use my knowledge and experience. 

“The thing with playing well as you get older is that you have got to retain the enthusiasm to do the work away from the golf course. You are not going to be playing in major championships if you are not playing well week in week out, and to play well week in week out you have got to enjoy practising, going in the gym, and dedicating your time to the psychology stuff when you need to.”

Westwood and his son, Sam, took a trip to Augusta between the Players and the Honda Classic, and the 19-year-old will be on the bag at the Masters. Sam beat him that week, but now it’s the real thing they’re on the same side and dreaming of a fairytale ending.

They have been known to happen in this corner of Georgia.

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Source: National Club Golf