Lee Westwood must improve touch around the greens to win first Major, says Rob Lee
Lee Westwood must improve around the greens if he is to snare an elusive first Major, says Rob Lee.
Last Updated: 08/11/12 10:19am
The Englishman's ball-striking abilities have never been in question - he is wonderful with a driver or irons in his hands - but the thing that stops him winning more often, and winning Majors, is his short game.
That was evident last week in his failure to take the WGC-HSBC Champions title in China, despite tying for the lead with South African Louis Oosthuizen heading into the final round after a magnificent 61 on the third day.
Westwood did not capitalise on birdie opportunities in Shenzhen and that must be driving him potty because he is a millimetre away from being a truly outstanding golfer; his temperament, his work ethic and the way he hits the ball are second to none - but he's not great around the greens.
I don't reckon Lee is chipping and putting badly because he is at a low ebb mentally - he hasn't got the yips - I think it's because the technique doesn't come naturally to him; he doesn't find the process easy.
He is so methodical and creates lovely pictures in his head about where he wants the ball to go, but just can't seem to manoeuvre it around the greens as well as some of the other top players.
When Ian Poulter or Luke Donald get towards the hole, you expect an up and down. With Lee, you're hoping for one.
All players tinker with their putting, chipping and long game, though, as they aim to perfect the un-perfectable; it's a natural process and one that Lee will continue with until he gets it right.
But rarely is anybody great at everything and I'm sure that while Lee would like Poulter's short game, Poulter would probably love to have Westwood's power and accuracy off the tee.
Maybe Lee will improve further next year when he and his family move lock, stock and barrel over to the United States, and he plays regularly on the PGA Tour - and under conditions that are similar from week to week.
The better chippers enjoy the challenge of playing from different grasses every tournament, but maybe Lee will benefit from similar environments where you can hone one skill to a top level each week.
Westwood has got 39 professional wins worldwide and is a phenomenal player - but until he finds that missing piece of the jigsaw he may always be the nearly man in Majors.
Poulter had a quiet year up until the Ryder Cup - but how he has kicked into life.
His form for Team Europe in Medinah was sensational - I shall never forget the Saturday night when Europe were 10-5 down and Poulter, playing with Rory McIlroy, birdied the last five holes to keep his side in the mix - and he won all four of the matches he played in.
The Briton then enjoyed a fourth-placed finish at the BMW Masters in Shanghai a couple of weeks back and then on Sunday, he won the WGC-HSBC Champions by two strokes after surpassing a host of marquee players in the final round.
The Ryder Cup was obviously the catalyst - it juices him more than anything else - but the challenge for Poulter, who has now risen back into the world's top 20, is to translate that into further individual success.
He has already done that to some extent and is now only the second European after Darren Clarke to win multiple World Golf Championship events, having also snared the Accenture Matchplay in 2010 - but I think there is more to come.
You could never accuse Poulter, or any top play for that matter, of not trying, but I think he finds it difficult to generate that spark when he is not playing with the elite, in the same way that football teams who beat Man United or Arsenal one week struggle to back it up in matches against lesser opposition.
Poulter once stated that when everything was said and done, he and Tiger Woods would be left standing. He got a bit of stick for that comment but I don't think it was a fabricated one; he truly believed it.
And with the gap between the two 36-year-old's having closed - due to Poulter's improvement and Tiger's malaise - it will be fascinating to see which man enjoys more success over the next few years.
I would still have to go with Woods, even though things are not quite as easy for him as they once were, but Poulter is a maximiser who makes the most out of every piece of talent that he has got, and guys like that can do great things.
ROB'S SKY BET TIPS
Adam Scott will be searching for a fourth Singapore Open title this week and I think he has a very good chance of capturing it, but I will go for McIlroy 9/2 with Sky Bet. I know I'm not really sticking my neck out with that pick but Rory, still top of the Race to Dubai, has had some criticism of late - and that's when he is at his most dangerous.
The Ulsterman took some stick after blowing the chance to win the 2011 Masters but then won the US Open by eight strokes at Congressional. He then missed three straight cuts in the middle of this year but went on to win the USPGA Championship by eight shots.
And a certain multi-Major winner has been bemoaning his decision to change to Nike equipment which in my mind means one thing: Rory will edge Scott, Oosthuizen, Phil Mickeslon and the like and win his fifth tournament of an extraordinary year.
Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic:
The winner of this event in Florida is almost a side-story as the real excitement will be watching guys lower down the standings fighting tooth and nail to earn the $50,000 or $5 they require to keep their PGA Tour cards for next year.
But I will tip Brendon de Jonge to triumph at 14/1; he has been a birdie beast on the Tour for a few seasons now and keeps boosting his coffers every week with high-placed finishes. He needs a win to further his career, though, and I think it might come this week.