The result: Last year Westwood climbed to No. 1 in the world, where he spent 17 weeks before Martin Kaymer replaced him following the Accenture Match Play Championship in February.
"I love Lee," says Butch Harmon. The renowned coach is standing on the range at Doral. He has golfers all over the leader board at the Cadillac Championship. Butch shoots straight.
"I don't think Lee dwells on finishing second in the majors, but you know it's in the back of his mind," Harmon says. "He's made a phenomenal comeback, and I can't imagine him ending his career without winning major championships. The one thing that holds him back is his pitching around the greens. I'd say he's below average at a tour level, and I think that's what hurts you the most at major championships because of the severity of the courses. On a day when you don't have it, you have to rely on your short game to bail you out, and that's what the Mickelsons, Woodses and Elses have. Short game is probably the only weak link in [Westwood's] armor."
The criticism is something that Westwood has heard time and again, but he views it as outdated. In 2009 he ranked 58th in scrambling on the European tour. Last year he was seventh.
"I'm a stat person," Westwood says. "I've improved my short game a lot. Where I was a four or five before, I'd say now I'm probably a seven or eight. It's not the best in the world, but it's by no means the worst. I get it up and down pretty much when I should."
Westwood is back on the course at Doral, finishing his practice round. He ascends the small knoll of the 17th tee box and looks down the fairway. Behind him, on the 3rd tee, there is a commotion. Woods, Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose have just teed off, and hundreds of fans are in tow. Their swing coach, Sean Foley, is following along, his ever-present camera in hand.
"Should I bet on you this week, Lee?" a fan asks.
"Sure, why not?" Westwood answers back.
The fan seems satisfied with the reply, and Westwood sticks a peg in the ground. It's a gorgeous day, the Masters is around the corner, and the soccer will be on soon.
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