Look out for Lee Westwood

Ian Hutchinson, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:04 AM ET

When we’re talking about who takes over for Tiger, at least for now, as golf’s headliner, it seems natural to turn to Masters champ Phil Mickelson, even if he stumbles whenever he gets close as he did when he missed the cut at the Colonial on the weekend.

He isn’t No. 1 yet. Maybe, the U.S. Open will be Mickelson’s catapult, yet there’s always that gag in 2006 at Winged Foot that fuels the Phil doubters. For all his talents, consistency will never be a trait of Mickelson’s.

So let’s go down a notch on the world rankings and there’s Lee Westwood, a lad from England who in many ways is like Mickelson, with the talent to be dominant, at least in Europe and the Ryder Cup, so maybe he’s more like Colin Montgomerie.

Either way, both Mickelson and Monty were tagged at one time as the best player never to win a major, a title that now suits Westwood, with one caveat. That runner-up finish at the Masters and the tie for fourth at The Players Championship this year are blinking like neon on the road to Pebble Beach.

Of course, that doesn’t matter unless he pulls it off. “I think he can,” said Karl Morris, a mind coach who has worked with many of the top players in Europe, including Westwood.

“Harking back to some players in the past, (Tom) Watson and (Jack) Nicklaus, if you look at there careers, there’s been an awful lot of seconds and thirds in majors because the No. 1 thing you’ve got to do to win majors is put yourself in contention and that’s at least what Lee’s doing,” he added.

“He’s up there on a regular basis now, so it’s a fine line between that and winning,” said Morris, who makes a good point since Westwood has top three finishes in his past three majors.

Westwood has nine top-10 career finishes in majors, with three of those coming at the U.S. Open, the latest being 2008 when he was third and just missed the Tiger Woods-Rocco Mediate playoff shootout. Those are good omens heading into Pebble Beach, but Morris sees others.

“It’s just consistency, the things he does — sticking to his routines on the golf course. He’s got, I think, the best caddie in the world with Billy Foster on his bag, so he’s got a very good team around him,” Morris said. “More than anything, it’s about him trusting himself. Lee’s very strong mentally anyway.”

For Westwood to push it over the top from his current position as No. 3 in the world is no easy task, but it doesn’t seem as daunting as his battle back after dropping out of the top 250 in the world rankings.

“Looking back on that period of time, he was the exact opposite of what’s happening now. He was tending to look at different coaches, take too much advice from too many people,” said Morris, who was in the Toronto area a couple of weeks ago, giving seminars.

“It doesn’t sound very thrilling, but to me, that is the secret. If you look back on the history of the game, the things that Nicklaus talked about. I remember him saying that he couldn’t believe how many young players change their coaches,” Morris said.

“He said: ‘I just used to see Jack Grout at the beginning of every year and we’d go through the basics and that was it. Away I would go and keep working on that,’ ” and he did that for 25 years,” said Morris, adding that quick fixes can be too tempting.

“We tend to just jump on to the latest thing and we look at what somebody else is doing, but the No. 1 thing really is to understand yourself and what makes yourself tick,” Morris said.


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