Welcome to the new season of Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Jay Busbee and head writer Jonathan Wall take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by writing firstname.lastname@example.org, or hit us on Twitter at @jaybusbee and @jonathanrwall. Today, we're celebrating Lee Westwood's birthday by discussing whether he's still got anything in the tank. Happy birthday, Lee!
Busbee: So after yet another close-but-no-cigar weekend at a major, Lee Westwood did what Lee Westwood does: flew to a far corner of the globe to beat up on a bunch of no-names. In this case it was the Indonesian Open, and he won the damn thing. Let's begin the discussion by getting your take on Mr. Westwood: good but not great? Weak in the clutch? A guy who's had the worst breaks of any golfer ever? Have your say, my friend.
Wall: I'm a big fan of Lee Westwood's game; unlike a lot of people I still think he'll win at least one major before he's done. But let's be honest here: the guy hasn't won a tournament with a legitimate field since the St. Jude Classic in 2010. He won four time last year, but I can say with almost 100 percent certainty that the average golf fan couldn't name one of the events. The fact that he has to fly to Asia to play in against watered-down field to pick up a win not only skews his Official World Golf Ranking (No. 3), it also makes people question if he has what it takes to win against the best players in the world. He's been close at the major recently, but it seems like his putting stroke always disappears at the absolute worst time. So to answer your question in a roundabout way, I think he's weak in the clutch ... against strong fields. Numbers don't lie, and even though he manages to always post a handful of top 10's, there's no question his lack of success in the limelight is big issue.
Busbee: Is this something he can overcome? The guy was a force in the early 2000s, vanished for most of the decade, and then was reborn as a legit championship contender (and brief No. 1). But do you think that a new putting coach (which is all Chubby Chandler said he needs) is the answer? Or is Lee going to have to toughen up between the ears before any coaching sticks?
Wall: I think it's something he can overcome, but he has to get out of his own way. Chubby may think a putting coach will solve all the problems, but look at how Lee's played recently. Closing out on Sunday hasn't been an issue for him -- except when it comes to the majors. In my opinion, this is purely mental. Guys like Phil Mickelson found a way to break through after years of poor putting in big situations, and Westwood isn't Lefty, I have faith he'll get it together when it counts. When will it finally click? That's the million-dollar question.
Busbee: How much more golf do you think he has in him? He's facing a variant of the Tiger Woods issue--he's not getting any younger, and the rest of the field is as deep as it's ever been in golf. Plus, his buddy Rory McIlroy is going to suck up more than a few majors between now and, oh, 2030. The window is closing fast for Westwood, I'm thinking.
Wall: I would agree the window is definitely closing for him, but if he can stay in shape and keep pushing ahead, I think even at the age of 39 he can contend for another 6 years. I guess we'll have to wait and see if my optimistic outlook ever pans out. We both know how good I am with predictions (I'm awful).
All right, your turn. Lee Westwood, contender or pretender? Have your say.