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The big names in men’s took back this week’s titles from the upstarts, a near faultless Phil Mickelson cruising to a convincing victory over a boyish-looking Sean O’Hair in the season’s unofficial ‘fifth major, The Players, at Sawgrass, and his English Ryder Cup rival, Lee Westwood, claiming the spoils from lesser lights like Phillip Archer, Fredrik Andersson and Louis Oosthuizen at the Valle Romano Open de Andalucia in Spain.
Ironically both players have been going through something of a slump, Mickelson mainly because of his erratic play with his drivers, and Westwood largely because of too many miserable years with a series of unsuccessful putters.
Their triumphs on Sunday were both crucial.
With the US Open just a few weeks away now, Mickelson, who has subsequently replaced swing coach Rick Smith with Butch Harmon, needed to produce a solid driving display and to close strongly on Sunday to blot out the memories of the way he threw away the US Open last year and how his ‘army’ driving – it seemed to play to a tune of left, right, left, right, but never centre – then made the Ryder Cup a huge embarrassment for him.
He did both, firstly by smoothly slamming ball after ball down the centre of most of the fairways that mattered and, but for a bogey when it no longer mattered at the 18th, produced an otherwise flawless winning round of 69 that
Westwood, in the meantime, needed victory simply to break a nearly four-year winless drought and get himself back into the World Top 50 and consequently into all the big events were most of the game’s big money and ranking points co-exist.
The question now is, have their victories given them the confidence and momentum to go on to even greater things this year?
What do you think?
Neville Leck – Editor