EXCLUSIVE: Lee's big date is a major turn off for his children
22:35 GMT, 28 March 2012
One thing guaranteed on Saturday night of Masters week is that Lee Westwood’s two children, 10-year-old Sam and Poppy, eight, will be glued to the television. Just not watching to see how dad’s getting on.
‘How much do kids love that ITV programme Take Me Out’ said Westwood, smiling.
‘Mine will be watching that, for sure. They love that “no likey, no lighty” bit. What chance have I got against that If the golf is on and I come on the screen it’s like, “Oh yeah, that’s where dad is”, and they’ll wander off. To be honest, I wouldn’t want it any other way.’
Driving ambition: Westwood is trying out a new club in an effort to add an extra five yards to his tee shots in Houston
Amid the fantasy twirl of the top echelons of professional golf there are those who embrace the celebrity lifestyle, those who get above themselves — and those like Westwood who have no intention of losing their grip on the real world.
It’s why all decent members of the great sporting public will be tuning in to the majors this year in the hope that skill and providence finally get their act together and Westwood claims that elusive prize he deserves.
There are those who will tell you he doesn’t chip well enough or that scar tissue from past losses will open up come the suffocating pressure of Sunday afternoon.
But, instead of dwelling on Westwood’s perceived shortcomings on the eve of another major championship season, let’s recognise the immense dedication he is bringing to the task.
Looking forward: Westwood is hoping for success at The Masters
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New kid on the block: Rory McIlroy has risen up the rankings in recent years
But, with three of the majors in America every year, it makes sense from a career point of view.’
There is no set way to prepare for a major. Rory McIlroy is on a three-week break before the Masters, Luke Donald a fortnight’s furlough, while Tiger Woods is having a week at home.
Westwood, however, likes to be competitive before a major, which is why he is in Texas for the start of the Shell Houston Open, beginning today.
He said all the right things in his press conference about giving this tournament the respect it deserves but one look at his entourage tells you where the ultimate focus lies.
Sharing a joke: Westwood with last year's Open winner Darren Clarke
With him are his coach, Pete Cowen, putting adviser Phil Kenyon, and Steve McGregor, the man who has done so much for not only Westwood’s fitness but also McIlroy’s.
Walking down the fairways on a sultry Tuesday afternoon, McGregor goes into detail about the work that leaves Westwood in the best shape of his life. Kenyon’s brief is to instil the confidence to hit putts harder. As for Cowen, he’s got the Englishman’s long game honed so razor-sharp it is a surprise these days when he isn’t in contention.
Westwood said: ‘I think it’s right to say I’ve been waiting for the Masters since the middle of last August when the PGA Championship finished. When you’ve won 37 tournaments around the world but not a major and you’re very competitive, it is natural you’re going to want to win at least one.
Club class: Westwood plays his way out of a bunker at the World Golf Championship Cadillac Championship
‘There’s no question they are the events that have the extra buzz and anticipation. But it wouldn’t be right to say I am trying to peak for next week.
'I think the way you win majors is trying to win every week. And, when you reach a certain level of technical consistency, there’s no reason why you can’t strive to do that. Look at Rory, with all these top-five finishes he has been having.’
The quest for better never ends. On this day Westwood, arguably the best in the game off the tee, has two drivers in his bag, with a new one that comes with the promise of adding five to seven yards.
Hoping for more trophies: Westwood celebrates winning the Sun City Challenge in December
‘I see it is longer,’ says his wry caddie Billy Foster as the pair walk up to two immaculately struck drives and discover the new one has gone six inches past the old.
Foster’s the perfect foil for Westwood, an earthy Yorkshireman who caddied for Seve Ballesteros for five years and is more a friend than employee. At times the humour is frat-boy level and the conversation is hardly ever about golf.
With Foster supporting Leeds and Westwood Nottingham Forest, there’s plenty of banter about the 7-3 epic home loss suffered by the former’s club nine days ago.
When Westwood is putting his markings on his golf ball, he says: ‘What a shame there isn’t room for all the goalscorers.’
Foster gives as good as he gets but he knows the time to get serious is almost on us. With five majors to play until his 40th birthday, this might be the most important year of Westwood’s golfing life. Fingers crossed it proves one even his kids want to watch.