Not so long ago, Lee Westwood was an undistinguished professional golfer, a guy mired deep in the three figures of the Official World Golf Rankings. He'd spent years toiling away across Europe and the United States without distinction.
By 2000, he'd fought his way up to No. 4 only to fall all the way to 266 two years later. For most golfers, that'd be it, a good if brief run. But Westwood was only just beginning. He absolutely tore his way upward through the ranks, ending with the Halloween triumph.
Question is, how'd he do it? Technique, sure, but physical skill can only take you so far. As Westwood notes in an interview with the Guardian (visor tip: Armchair Golf Blog), it was mind over matter:
"I was very, very ruthless and honest with myself," he says, eyes wide. "And I would never, ever, tell anyone else what I did until I've finished my career. Because I'm trying to beat them every week and that's the ruthlessness coming out again. So I would never give an edge away ... I know how I turned it round but I wouldn't tell anybody. Because it's a life experience I've been through that not many people have. And why give that kind of information away? Golf is a very selfish and ruthless sport."
Love it. That's the kind of take-no-prisoners mentality that makes for a great golfer. Now, I'm sure I'd love it less if I had to deal with Westwood on a regular basis, like his kids do. As he puts it elsewhere in the article:
"I've had my son crying sometimes, he says, 'You never let me win!' But there's no point because it doesn't mean anything. The satisfaction you get when you finally beat your dad is amazing, that rush of adrenaline."
And there's zero resentment at all from that! It's flawless! Anyway, Westwood is 37, older than the guy he displaced from the No. 1 spot. But even though there's that elusive major out there yet to be won, you get the feeling he's taking nothing for granted at this point. When you come from the depths that he did, every achievement's a bonus.
The Secret Toughness of a Natural No. 1 [The Guardian]