Lee Westwood proved he still has the class to win an elusive major, says David Livingstone
Last Updated: 21/01/20 10:48am
Lee Westwood proved age is no barrier to winning big events after he stormed to victory in Abu Dhabi, and David Livingstone believes the English veteran can still contend for an elusive major title ...
He's too clever to get over-excited but Lee Westwood must know that starting 2020 with a high-profile win to clinch a four-decade victory parade is a green light for all kinds of conjecture.
Just because he's not getting carried away doesn't mean we can't, and in that spirit I'm going to say there'd be no justice if he didn't get at least one more chance to win a major.
Yes, it seems a long shot for someone who's 46 and not lifted one of the big four trophies before, but the way he almost casually dispatched a world-class field to win in Abu Dhabi suggests he's not finished with unfinished business.
Certainly, he acknowledged after his win that Whistling Straits this September is back on his agenda despite having privately decided before that he was "done with the Ryder Cup".
Get the best prices and book a round at one of 1,700 courses across the UK & Ireland
But before then, he has the year's four majors ahead of him and enough memories of near-misses in all of them to sustain a self-belief that's only marginally diminished by age.
His demeanour in the final round on Sunday suggested he was in near-total control of his game and grateful for the influences of Robert Rock on his swing and Phil Kenyon on his putting. He wasted only one shot around the green - on the 16th - and we all know that's an area that's been a concern in the second half of his career.
When, mid-round, he told SkySports' Tim Barter that he was simply concentrating on enjoying himself, I found myself almost believing him. We have, after all, listened on many occasions to street-wise Lee taking pressure off himself by playing down expectations.
This time it felt different, as though a 46-year-old Westwood was relishing the intensity of the competition and inviting the younger players to take him on. The fact that none of them really got on terms with the leader undoubtedly made it easier for him to plot his way to the title but no less satisfying.
The tears that followed were understandable. Success coming late in any career in any walk of life tends to be an emotional experience. Lee, being Lee, soon got over that and celebrated by staying up all night watching the 49ers punch their ticket to Miami, ordering a curry at three in the morning and, I suspect, briefly suspending 'Dry January'.
That aside, he's making no sudden changes to anything and he's certainly avoiding any grand predictions about the year ahead. He knows one victory in the third week of January in a part of the world where he's comfortable does not easily translate to the demands of Augusta National in the second week of April.
But surely we can all realistically hope that the confidence Westwood derived from his week in Abu Dhabi will cause him to re-assess his expectations and plan for perhaps one last big tilt at the majors. Or maybe he just lets it happen naturally. Maybe what he actually plans for is simply to be ready if the opportunity presents itself.
Remember Monty at Winged Foot in 2006 when he'd probably given up any hope of winning a major. All of a sudden, on the 18th on Sunday, the path to the pantheon of golfing greats was laid out in front of him.
With his skills, a seven-iron from the fairway should have gone straight down that path, but it didn't, and his best chance to win the US Open had gone.
Like Monty, Lee Westwood has been close to winning a major, and particularly the Masters where he's been second twice, to Phil Mickelson in 2010 and then to Danny Willett in 2016.
Before last week in Abu Dhabi, no one was talking about him as a likely contender for the 2020 Green Jacket but, having seen off a field that included World No 1 Brooks Koepka, Westwood has, as they say, put himself in the conversation.
We'll see in three months' time if we're still talking about him on Sunday at Augusta National. Even if it doesn't happen at Augusta, there's good reason to look ahead optimistically. Lee finished tied fourth in the Open Championship at Royal Portrush last Summer and that brought his top fives in majors to a total of 12.
Let's hope there's as much luck as there is history on his side.