2015 Preview: Lee Westwood
Welcome to the 2015 Golf Preview, where I’ll take a look at selected golfers and examine what to expect over the next twelve months. Today, we look at Lee Westwood.
To say Lee Westwood has had an interesting career would be a massive understatement. He’s been to the very top of the Official World Golf Rankings, sitting in the number one spot for 22 weeks in 2010 and 2011, and he’s also had terrible runs of form where he contemplated giving the game up entirely. He picked up his 41st win as a professional last week in Thailand, giving him his second win in Asia in 2014, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would suggest that he had a quality season. He needed to rely on Paul McGinley to give him a captain’s pick at the Ryder Cup, and that win in Thailand gave him just his fifth top-10 finish in 26 starts worldwide in 2014, which really isn’t the kind of quality play that we’ve come to expect from a player with eight top-3 finishes in majors since 2008.
Of course, that’s the other thing that constantly surrounds Westwood. That major has continued to elude him even with numerous chances much like his fellow Ryder Cup teammate Luke Donald and after trying out a new caddie and going to Sean Foley for swing advice, he switched back to his old team in 2014. Also like Donald, it certainly seems like the slimmed down Westwood is flying under the radar as he enters 2015.
ESPN’s Lee Westwood Headshot
ESPN.com has a lot of great golf content, but their player headshots are, shall we say, a little outdated, with Ryan Moore leading the way. As such, I’m introducing the Ryan Moore headshot ranking system. Each player will get a ranking from 1-10, with 10 being the most outdated possible.
I’ll be honest: the Ryan Moore headshot ranking system might not exist if I had seen Westwood’s picture first. The longer, coiffed hair is something that I had completely forgotten about Westwood and look at the company name on his collar. According to Wikipedia, Quorn is a meat substitute product manufactured in the UK, with the last mention of Westwood being affiliated with them coming in 2007. At best, that puts this photo at being seven years old, but my guess is that we’re going past the decade mark with this one.
Why You Should Watch
Westwood has always been one of the best ball strikers in the world and when he’s on his game, it’s a lot of fun to watch him stripe the ball down every fairway and stick approaches to ten feet. He’s also one of the best golf related follows there is on Twitter, and as someone who makes a lot of GIFs, he’s a guy that gives me tons of material:
He also loves to wear quality hats:
Westwood in one GIF
As good of a ball striker as Westwood is, the putter just hasn’t been there for him over the years, and it’s really the reason why he hasn’t won that first major championship. The interesting thing is that he was actually pretty decent on the greens in 2014, ranking 65th in Strokes Gained Putting, which might not seem like much, but when you realize that in previous years he’s ranked in at 168 and 175, that’s a monumental improvement.
As Richie3Jack noted though in his excellent 2014 Pro Golf Synopsis, Westwood’s jump in putting actually coincided with a drop in his usually excellent iron play. There’s always a catch, right?
What was behind Westwood’s late season surge?
I mentioned up top that Westwood didn’t have the best year, and he really didn’t, but he played quite well down the stretch. After justifying McGinley’s selection at the Ryder Cup, here are his finishes:
- Frys.com Open: T12
- CIMB Classic: T13
- HSBC Champions: T20
- Turkish Airlines Open: T8
- DP World Championship: T47
- Nedbank Challenge: T16
- Thailand Golf Championship: 1st
Is it the weight loss? Is it the fact that maybe those fields weren’t that strong and that the one tournament with the big field saw him finish tied for 47th? Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but there is something positive to take out of this run and as long as Westwood continues to drive the ball like he has for the great majority of his career, he’s going to be a threat and a player to watch.