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Confidence Man
DAMON HACK
April 04, 2011
Undaunted by repeated near misses in the majors, a more fit and in form Lee Westwood heads back to Augusta National as assured as ever
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April 04, 2011

Confidence Man

Undaunted by repeated near misses in the majors, a more fit and in form Lee Westwood heads back to Augusta National as assured as ever

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Does he know what it takes to get there? "Just improve everything slightly," he says.

Westwood likens the margin between winning and second to a razor-blade's edge, and an upbeat attitude will get him on the good side of that razor.

He returns his gaze to the soccer and picks at a chopped salad with chicken. A player for AC Milan smashes the ball toward the net. A Tottenham defender races over and kicks the ball away just as it is about to cross the goal line. Westwood lets out a yelp.

"Did they not score then?" he asks. "It's got to be close to being over the line, isn't it?"

Nearly. But the entire ball did not cross the plane. No goal. It's a very fine line.

Lee is one of the few players in the world who can actually win tournaments on long game only," says Pete Cowen, Westwood's swing coach. "Vijay [Singh] did that at his best. He could win a tournament not putting well. Lee's very similar to that."

Cowen is standing in the 11th fairway at Doral, eyeballing his pupil. He is the essence of old school. Cowen played the European tour in the 1970s. After he belted a tee shot 40 yards past Gary Player at the Brazilian Open, Cowen sold the driver to Player for $100. Cowen took lessons from Gardner Dickinson because Dickinson took lessons from Ben Hogan.

"Hogan was my inspiration," says Cowen, who also coaches Oosthuizen and 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell. "I read more of Hogan than anything. Lee understands Hogan, but you can lose yourself in that if you're not careful. The main philosophy to understand was his work ethic."

Westwood, who turns 38 on April 24, shares with Hogan the claim that he might be his era's best ball striker. Westwood grew up in Worksop, England, a town of simple tastes and shuttered coal mines. At Worksop Golf Club, where Westwood learned to play, a golfer has to compress the ball, fully, off the cold earth for it to behave.

"It's a sandy course with a lot of tight lies," Westwood says. "You always had to have clean contact."

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