Lee Westwood ends drought in Malaysia
Lee Westwood won by seven shots this morning in Malaysia at the Maybank Malaysian Open. It’s his 40th career win as a professional, but his first since June of 2012 at the Nordea Masters, an extremely long time for a player of his record and ability. This one means a lot for Westwood, as the former world number one will move back into the top-30 in the Official World Golf Rankings thanks to this win.
The last couple of years have been interesting for Westwood. He moved to the United States and took up full time membership on the PGA Tour, fired longtime caddie Billy Foster and others in his group, had a few more close calls in majors, reunited with Foster and now, finally has another win.
No one has ever questioned Westwood’s ball striking ability, and even though he hasn’t won that major championship yet, having 40 career wins proves that he’s not your regular, run of the mill professional. His short game though, particularly the putter, has been from the outside looking in anyway, the real reason why Westwood has struggled at points in his career. Now though, through work with new coach Mike Walker and with Foster back on the bag, he’s starting to feel comfortable again and a lot of that has to do with his newly improved short game, telling James Corrigan after his round today that, “The difference is I’ve got a short-game now.”
Golfers by nature tinker a lot with their games, even when they get to the top of the world like Westwood has, which always seems absolutely crazy to me, but this recent round of changes appears to have started to pay off. He played well in Houston, with four rounds at par or better and then got into the top-10 at Augusta last week before coming here and winning despite never playing the course before. Perhaps the most important thing about this run for Westwood, and Paul McGinley, is that it helps propel him further up the Ryder Cup points list.
Westwood has played on every European Ryder Cup side since 1997, and has put together a pretty stunning record, especially in the team portion. We saw last year what happened at the Presidents Cup when Fred Couples had to make difficult decisions regarding older players who had represented the Americans several times in the past, and when he decided to leave Jim Furyk off of the team, which was the right call, it wasn’t exactly the most comfortable of situations.
The last thing that McGinley wants is to have to make a decision regarding a player like Westwood or current RBC Heritage leader Luke Donald. The ideal situation would be to have those two qualify on points, giving McGinley the ability to choose from lesser known veterans and young players like Stephen Gallacher, Joost Luiten and Jonas Blixt. Even Sergio Garcia poked fun at Westwood this morning after the tournament was over.
Make no mistake: Westwood desperately wants to win a major, but he’s also been on the record that the Ryder Cup means just as much to him as those major championships do. If Westwood does indeed have a short game now like he suggests, it’s possible that the best is yet to come from the 41-year old, and while the win today doesn’t guarantee his spot at Gleneagles in a few months, it’s the best indication we’ve had from him that he fully intends on representing Europe for the ninth time in his career.