Westwood: ‘There was no secret’
Lee Westwood used some old-fashioned mind games to help him become European number one again.
Lee Westwood will have celebrated his second European Tour crown well into the early hours, no matter how he did it.
But to produce a performance he rated the best of his career made the party all the sweeter in Dubai on Sunday night.
To get there Westwood had had to overhaul a stablemate in the final week just as he did nine years ago.
In 2000 Darren Clarke missed out on the number one spot when the Worksop golfer finished second in the American Express world championship at Valderrama.
This time 20-year-old Rory McIlroy was overtaken as Westwood won by a record-equalling six shots and with a 23-under-par display that almost defied belief on the second longest lay-out in Tour history.
More than that, he completed it with a course record 64 and did not have a single bogey in his last 46 holes.
One week’s work earned Westwood £1,637,196 – £744,180 for the tournament and a £893,016 money list bonus.
No wonder he was celebrating, but it was about far more than just the cash and how he had just played.
Westwood was fourth in the world early in 2001. A year later he had crashed outside the top 250, was having to sit out majors and he admits thoughts of giving up the game crossed his mind.
Now he is back to number four, has twice missed out on a first major title by a shot and believes the best could yet be to come.
“To drop completely into obscurity, I suppose, and come back from it and crown it all by winning this obviously means a lot,” he said.
He had promised to reveal some secrets of his performance if he won, but smiled and stated: “The secret was that there was no secret.
“It was making everybody else think I had a secret when I didn’t really.
“The big turnaround in confidence was catching Billy (his caddie Billy Foster) at the beach party on Tuesday.
“He’d probably just had enough Heineken to tell me what he really thought. He said I’d been paying too much attention to the other people around me.
“He said ‘you’ve been out here 16 years – that’s longer than all three of them put together (McIlroy, Martin Kaymer and Ross Fisher were the only players left in the race to be number one) and you’ve won 30 times, which is also more than all of them put together’.
“It’s a terrible word to use because I hate it, but he said ‘you’ve got to bully them’. That’s why I’ve been confident all week.”
And that confidence only grew some more when he read in the papers something that McIlroy, leader of the Race to Dubai by over £114,000, had said.
McIlroy stated publicly that he was glad the two of them were not paired in the second round because then he could concentrate on his own game more.
“It was obviously a massive feather in my cap,” commented Westwood, who had out-scored his rival by two on the day.
“There’s nothing worse to say than that if you’re Rory – and he will learn from that – and there’s nothing better for me than a competitor to say they are glad they are not playing with me.
“I read it in the press. I wouldn’t have said it, but I’ve been on Tour 16 years and he’s been on Tour three.
“Sometimes what you say off the golf course and the mind games you play are as important as the pressure you can put on people on the course.”
Westwood’s biggest challenge in the event ended up coming from fellow Englishman Ross McGowan, whose one previous Tour win came last month in Madrid.
He had a third round 60 there and his 17-under total here would have won most weeks, but even five successive birdies on the back nine cut the gap only from seven to four.
Thankfully, two closing bogeys did not cost him anything and he is up to fourth in the Ryder Cup race.
Leader Westwood already looks a certainty to earn a seventh successive cap in Wales next year. But first he would love to have that first major under his belt.
Asked, though, if he wished the next one was just around the corner rather than next April he just smiled and said: “No, not really – I’d go into it drunk!”
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