Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Jay Busbee and head writer Shane Bacon 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 @shanebacon. Today, we're discussing Lee Westwood's tendency to come up short at exactly the wrong time.
Busbee: Shane, I'm thinking we have a new phrase for the lexicon: "Pulling a Westy." That's when everything looks set up perfectly for you, when you're running well and dominating, and all of a sudden you figure a way to lose it. You're chatting up a lady, you're making fine progress and plans, and you say that one thing that gets a drink thrown in your face? Pulled a Westy. That kid at the Indy 500 who wrecked on the last turn to lose the race? Pulled a Westy. The Chicago Bulls in Game 5? Definitely pulled a Westy. And Lee Westwood ... ah, Lee. What are we to make of this guy? This is past the point of just bad luck in the clutch, isn't it?
Bacon: Yes, I believe he is well past that point and definitely into that area where he can't close. I wrote something about how it seems he just isn't good at the end of big tournaments, and anyone that argues he won on the PGA Tour a season ago must remember it took someone making a triple-bogey on the final hole to even get Westwood in the playoff. That birdie putt on the 72nd hole was TERRIBLY bad, and his wedge in the playoff wasn't much better, and that was AFTER he nearly hit his tee shot out of play. The guy is good enough to continually put himself in a position to win. Sadly, it's the winning that never seems to get accomplished.
Busbee: I don't want to cross-pollinate my work too much here, but there's a guy running right now in NASCAR who is the direct opposite of Westwood. Kevin Harvick has won three races this year, more than anyone else, and all three have been last-second, come-from-nowhere wins, the equivalent of the Garrigus gift you referenced there. Harvick knows how to put himself in position to win in a way most other athletes don't. But back to golf: while Westwood took down that Memphis win, or at least didn't fumble it away, he's far more often on the other side of the table, giftwrapping the win for someone else, or failing to seize it when he's got the chance. Is nerve something that can be taught? Is there anyone you can think of who got more steel-willed as they went on in their careers? I'm having a hard time thinking of anyone.
Bacon: I think the best example of what you're talking about is Steve Stricker. This was a guy that couldn't find a fairway with a lawnmower back in the early 2000s, but somehow reinvented his golf game, and has now become a fixture for consistency and closing out tournaments. I think with Westwood you're talking about a guy that does get nervous at times, and does let it get to him in the big moments, and that's why he got so frustrated after the playoff on Sunday at Wentworth. I'm sure he's upset he lost, but he's probably more disgruntled that he will have to answer all these questions once again. But can you teach nerves? I don't think you can teach it, but like Stricker, if you can find something that really, really works (like his putting stroke), and maybe you can lean on that long enough to get past the tough losses.
Busbee: Exactly. That's the problem right now with He Who Shall Not Be Named: you have to find one element of your game that's dead-solid perfect, one that you know won't abandon you no matter what, one that you know you can count on when everything else goes in the toilet. And "having the unerring ability to find water" probably isn't it.
Now, since we don't want to Pull A Westy here, we're tapping out. Your turn, friends. Will Lee Westwood ever close the deal in a big tournament?