From tee to green last week at the Masters, I’m not sure there was really a better player in the field than Lee Westwood. He hit 75% of the fairways and was 2nd in greens in regulation through all 4 rounds. But where it matters most at Augusta National – Putting – he was ranked 60th.
“The story of the week is you have got to putt well to win The Masters and I haven’t putted well,” said Westwood. “I came out and missed a two footer on the third inexplicably and that is not the kind of thing that will give you confidence for the rest of the round. So I didn’t really make that many putts – the longest I made was ten feet on 18. I made a good one at the right time, but that’s not really good enough.”
When you look at the players who are ranked inside the top-10 in the Official World Golf Rankings, Westwood clearly stands out as the weakest player on the greens. Yet despite that – he’s still ranked 3rd in the world, which highlights just how great of a ball striker he’s been over the past few years.
It’s hard to fathom that a player like Westwood, who turns 39 in just a few weeks, hasn’t won a few major championships during his 19-year career, let alone a single one. With 21 European Tour wins to go along with 2 wins on the PGA Tour, it’s not that he’s a horrible putter, not at all. It’s just that when you go up against the best players in the world in the biggest events each season, those missed putts inside of 10 feet start adding up.
We need to look no further than Phil Mickelson’s improvements from last season to this season to note just how important it becomes to have confidence on the greens. Last year Mickelson ranked 134th on Tour in putting, by far his worst year ever as a touring pro. Through 9 events this season, which includes a win, a 2nd place finish, a 3rd place finish, and 4 top-10′s – Mickelson is ranked 3rd. And in large part to him regaining his putting prowess this season, he’ll likely continue to factor in the other major tournaments this season, as will Westwood.
But the difference is that in a major – it comes down to more than just finding fairways and greens. In all of the years that I’ve followed professional golf, I’ve yet to see an average putter during the week of a major tournament come away the winner. In fact – it rarely happens in the weaker non-major events nowadays. Until Lee Westwood can find a comfortable putting stroke that he has genuine confidence in, he’ll continue to be the name at the top of that infamous “best players who have never won a major” list.
Westwood has become too great of a player over the years to continue holding that dubious honor.