Westwood rounds on critics, defends short game
By Conor Nagle under The Open Championship

Lee Westwood: another green in regulation.

Lee Westwood has accumulated 39 career victories, seven top-five finishes in major championships since 2008 and occupied the top spot in the world rankings on two separate occasions since 2010. His is the statistical profile of a world-beating talent, if one that remains partially, heartbreakingly unfulfilled.

As he prepares to go in search, yet again, of that breakthrough top-tier victory, the Englishman has mounted a forceful defence of his notoriously unreliable short game.

Speaking to reporters, including Reuters’ Tony Jimenez, on Tuesday, the 39-year-old claimed the apparent inadequacy of his short game was an illusion of sorts, the product of fans’ unrealistic expectations and the comparative strength of his rivals’ scrambling.

It amounted to a novel, if not quite convincing, defence.

“I think my game suits most places. That’s why I’ve contended in most major championships recently. I don’t think you can get to number one without much of a short game.

“I think the thing about professional golf is you’re an individual so you’re lined up there for people to have a look at your game and take criticisms.”

“The people up there in the rankings have got strengths and they’ve got weaknesses. (World number one) Luke Donald’s strengths are from 80 yards in, my strengths are tee to green. You can’t be the best in the world at everything otherwise you’d be miles in front.”

Obviously, the notion that Westwood should somehow confess his golfing sins, own up to a brittle short game and inconsistent putting stroke, is a ludicrous one, but the extent to which athletes will go to preserve the integrity of their worldview (self-confidence, pride – call it what you will) is nonetheless fascinating to behold.

These are feats of logical acrobatics.

Fact: If Westwood succeeds in ending his major drought this week, he’ll be the first Englishman to win the Open Championship on home soil since Tony Jacklin in 1969. The venue on that occasion was – *drumroll* – none other than Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s.

Conor Nagle