A Jovial Westwood Welcomes Fresh Approach to the PGA
By Will Leivenberg under PGA Championship

Will Lee Westwood's light-hearted demeanor be the difference in his game at the PGA Championship?

Second twice and third four times. No, that’s not my record in the elementary school spelling bee, but rather a major championship record earned, and perhaps begrudgingly owned, by Lee Westwood.

With the PGA Championship less the 48 hours away, the No.2 ranked golfer in the world has a chance to finally escape the “best player to never win a major” label – one of those titles that sounds like a compliment, but really isn’t. But if you thought Westwood would enter the PGA stern and mercilessly focused, guess again. 

In a press conference Tuesday at Atlanta Athletic Club, Westwood was jovial and jolly. After telling the media he’d lost nine pounds since implementing a new fitness regimen, he commented on a personal weightlifting best he had recorded with a deadlift.

“354 pounds; a Chubby [Chandler] and a quarter. If I was squatting it, I would be entering the Olympics next year in London.”

If you thought that was just a fleeting, light-hearted moment, Westwood followed it up with another witty bit. When asked about his 44th place finish at the Atlanta Athletic Club in 2001, Westwood looked incredulous.

“Shows how much attention I pay. Are you sure I made the cut? Check on that. Let’s have a look. I don’t think I made any cuts in 2001; that’s what I’m really saying.”

Yet, when he was informed that he had in fact finished 44th, Westwood played it off,

“I played nicely in 2001 and shot a couple of 68s. I really loved the course and I’m happy to be back, good memories.”

After the roars of laughter subsided, Westwood showed off his other, more insightful side. After Rory McIlroy’s victory at the US Open and then Daren Clarke’s at the Open Championship, Westwood followed suit and employed the help of putting guru, David Stockton, and sports psychologist Bob Rotella. His new guidance comes with a new outlook–  not caring.

“Difficult to put into words really, other than that I am trying to play the tournament like I don’t care really. Just enjoy it and have a free, clear mind. Play like it doesn’t really mean anything. Just laugh; laugh it off, really, and have fun out there.”

A new approach couldn’t hurt. Phil Mickelson had missed more cuts than he’d made before this year’s British Open, but decided to play it like it was his first. He finished 2nd.

Becoming more relaxed and carefree on the golf course may be the solution to Westwood’s snags in the majors.

–Will Leivenberg

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)