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Westwood's resume still lacks major

Friday, April 01, 2011

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There has been too much time between major championships for Lee Westwood, who keeps flirting with that elusive first major title.

Lee Westwood lines up a putt on the third hole during the third round of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at Doral. (Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff)

His streak of playing in 17 consecutive major championships ended at August's PGA Championship, which he was forced to miss with a right calf injury. It has been nearly nine months since Westwood played in a major.

"Seems longer," the Englishman said.

"I feel sorry for the football (soccer) players back home when they get injured and they are out for a year," Westwood said of the relatively short careers in other sports. "And when you love doing something and you have a year out, and you have like a 10year career span, it's a miserable time and feels like time is ticking away."

Westwood wasn't out of action for a year, though it might have seemed that way to him. He only missed two months, from early August to early October, when he returned to help Europe win the Ryder Cup.

Westwood has finished in the top three in five of his past seven majors, including a runner-up finish to Phil Mickelson in last year's Masters Tournament. He was second in his last major appearance, the British Open.

In early November, he moved to the top spot in the world ranking. He then won the Nedbank Golf Challenge by eight shots in early December, finished second in the HSBC Champions on Jan. 23 and was third at the Dubai World Championship on Feb. 13.

At the time, Tiger Woods congratulated him "and said I've deserved to be world No. 1 because I've played so consistently and played well in the big events," Westwood remembered.

Westwood, who held the top spot for 17 weeks, until Feb. 27, never felt he had to defend the fact that he rose to the top without a major championship on his résumé.

"I've been playing very consistently for a couple of years now," he said. "You don't all of a sudden shoot to the top of the world rankings. It's not based like that. You have to play consistently well and at the bigger events, as well."

The magnitude of the accomplishment caught Westwood a little by surprise.

"You know, I've been obviously fourth quite a bit and third and second (in the ranking), but I didn't realize the massive jump to going to world No. 1, the demands on your time and doing interviews and things like that would be, and, you know, profile elevation, I guess," he said.

Westwood and most golf experts feel it's only a matter of time before he corrals that first major.

"Obviously I would like to win one, but to do that, you have to keep putting yourself in contention all the time," he said. "My record recently shows that I think I do things right for me going into them and getting to the right condition, I suppose."

Mickelson, who played with Westwood in the final pairing of the 2010 Masters, knows how he feels. Before he won the 2004 Masters, Mickelson wore the label of the best player to never win a major. Now he has four of them.

"Phil was saying in the scoring hut after we had finished (the final round of the 2010 Masters) that he'd been that man who kept knocking on the door, finishing second and third and wondering if it ever would happen, and suddenly it does and winning a major becomes easier in your own mind," Westwood said.

Reach David Westin at (706) 823-3224 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.

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