BRITISH Masters host Lee Westwood still believes he can win a Major.
And the former world No. 1 encouraged England’s top amateurs to replicate his work ethic and self-confidence as they strive to achieve their own career goals.
The seven-times Ryder Cup winner took time out from his preparations for the European Tour’s return at Close House next month, by taking part in the latest England Golf online Q&A session with players and coaches from its national squads.
Westwood – who represented England with distinction as an amateur before turning pro in 1993 – shared tales from life on tour.
The “Worksop Wonder,” who is now based in the North East, also gave tips on coaching, practice and course management – as well as offering sound advice for the next generation of England’s elite amateurs.
The 47-year-old’s CV means that he commands instant respect from golfers everywhere.
And his online audience during the hour-long session was no exception.
In the course of his 27 years on Tour Westwood has:
- Achieved 44 tournament victories
- Won pro events in five continents – North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia
- Enjoyed 19 top 10 finishes in Major championships
- Finished inside the top three in all four Majors
- Replaced Tiger Woods as World No. 1 in 2010 and spent 22 weeks at the top
- Played in 10 and won seven Ryder Cups as well as winning one as a vice-captain in 2018
And with the Open heading to Royal St George’s in 2021 after the R&A were forced to cancel the 149th contest for the Claret Jug, it is worth remembering that his great friend Darren Clarke was a shock winner at Sandwich in 2011.
Westwood can also take inspiration that he already has a victory at Royal St George’s to his name.
He won the St George’s Grand Challenge – reputedly the oldest club open in the world – as an amateur back in 1992.
And a certain Jack Nicklaus also has name on that trophy… having won the event in 1959.
‘Believe in yourself, no one else will’
WHEN asked to pass on one piece of advice to players making the transition from amateur to pro ranks, Westwood said: “Have confidence in yourself.
“It’s a dog-eat-dog world and no-one will put an arm round you. You need to grow up quickly, have faith and confidence in yourself. Convince yourself that you belong out there.
“If you don’t believe in yourself, then no-one else will.”
Westwood demonstrated he still has total belief in his own ability to compete.
Asked if – after so many near misses – he still felt in his heart of hearts that a Major win was still achievable at the age of 47, he said: “Yes – that’s why I do the hard work still – why I’ve lost weight during lockdown so that I’m fit for Majors at the end of the year.
“It’s why I practice,” added Westwood, who credits his work ethic for his career longevity.
“I maybe don’t practice as much as used to, but my practice is more meaningful.
“I turned up to Bethpage for the PGA – where Brooks Koepka won – and looked at the course and thought I wasn’t long enough.
“There were too many advantages for the lads who carry it 310-315 yards through the air. I can’t carry it that far.
“The rough was brutally thick and I was in the rough playing rescue clubs and they played seven-iron. Eventually that wears you down.
“But for the Masters, Harding Park for the PGA this year – I feel as if I have good a chance as anyone if I play my game.
“It’s only a few months since I won a Rolex event with the World No. 1 (Brooks Koepka) playing that week in Abu Dhabi.
“If you can get your game in shape for a course that suits you, then why not?
“It’s all about having the right mentality.”
‘Seve game me cotton wool at Valderrama’
DURING the session, Westwood touched on the importance of coaches to his career. He has worked with celebrated names such as Pete Cowen, David Leadbetter and Robert Rock.
Crucially, he stressed the importance of taking responsibility for his own swing to avoid being caught up in a “hazy panic” of too many different thoughts.
He also explained his loyalty to club manufacturers having stayed with Titleist and Ping throughout his career.
And he joked about his Ryder Cup debut in 1997. Captain Seve Ballesteros gave him a gift before he hit his first tee shot – a giant ball of cotton wool to stuff in his ears to block out the noise of the Valderrama crowd.
Westwood’s tips were gratefully received by his audience, and he was happy to pass on advice having once been in their position as a teenage hopeful.
Westwood – winner of the McEvoy Trophy and British Youths’ Championship as an amateur – added: “I enjoyed the England days.
“They give you a footing in the game, learning to travel and becoming independent,” added the ex-Nottinghamshire junior, who was a member at Worksop GC.
“Going for England coaching sessions and playing Home Internationals, travelling to Iceland for the European Boys team champs – that’s not somewhere you’d go very often – and Norway too.
“They were good trips and it prepared me for travelling around on Tour.
“Nowadays, amateurs are like semi-pros and have travelled all over the world. The really good ones settle in far easier to pro life than when I started out.
“My first pro event was my debut event as a pro in the Madeira Open.
“Amateurs such as Rory McIlroy had played 15/16 pro events as an amateur by the time they stepped up – and that makes a huge difference.”
Westwood: Fifty European Tour wins would be great
LEE WESTWOOD will be the British Masters host for a second time when the first post-lockdown European Tour event is held at Close House Golf Club, from July 22-25.
And he’s eager to get back and target more success at his adopted home in the North East, and beyond.
Westwood’s willingness to examine the fallow periods in his career as well as the many highs helped provide great insight for the current squad players, who enjoyed the session chaired by England performance director Nigel Edwards.
Westwood was the British Masters host when Paul Dunne claimed his maiden European Tour win at Close House, in 2017, finishing three strokes ahead of Rory McIlroy.
Lee Westwood’s Amateur victories
1991 – Peter McEvoy Trophy – Copt Heath GC
English Boys County Champions (Nottinghamshire) – Prince’s GC
1992 – Lagonda Trophy – Gog Magog GC
St George’s Grand Challenge Cup – Royal St George’s
Prince of Wales Challenge Cup – Royal Cinques Port
1993 – Leven Gold Medal Leven Links
British Youths Championship – Glasgow Gailles GC