Lee Westwood on 2021 Masters: Experience Will Be Very Valuable
As the only major championship played at the same venue each year, Lee Westwood has warned there is no substitute for tournament experience at Augusta National, especially with the event returning to its familiar April slot on the calendar.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 edition had to be moved to November, meaning the course was much softer and therefore presented less of a challenge than usual.
However, as the Englishman prepares to play in the Masters for the 20th time, he has said he expects the experienced heads to rise to the occasion.
“I think playing the golf course under tournament circumstances is very valuable, and you learn a lot when you play in previous Masters.
“That’s why I think you get a lot of repeat winners around here, and the likes of Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer, people that played it over the years a lot can contend and can get themselves into position because you learn where not to hit it.
“The golf course plays four different ways depending on the flag positions the four different days.
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“You can play, say, the third, depending on the pin position, four different ways if you want to. And there’s very few golf courses where the pin position dictates where you hit the tee shot.”
“I think it is a very strategic golf course, and you have to have a good plan before you go out there. And then obviously depending on the conditions, you have to adapt that plan.
“Say in November when we played, the golf course is nothing like it normally is. You could actually miss it in spots you were terrified about when you were making your plan, and you could be aggressive to certain flags.
“It wasn’t, as everybody would sort of say, a true Masters.
“This week it’s back to how the golf course should play, fast and firm, and this is how it is at its toughest.
“You’ll see, I think, people who have got a lot of experience around here coming to the top of the leaderboard again.”
Not only does that play into Westwood’s hands, but the 47-year-old also comes into this event on the back of a superb run of form.
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Having won the European Tour’s Race to Dubai for the third time at the end of 2020, the Englishman has built on that momentum in 2021, recording consecutive runner-up finishes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and PLAYERS Championship.
And he attributes his recent performances – which have vaulted him back into the world’s top 20 – to the work of his entire coaching team.
He said: “I think it’s the culmination of a lot of different things. I’ve obviously been working hard at my game, but I have a good team around me.
“Steve McGregor, we work on the physical fitness side of the game. Ben Davis, I work on the mental side of the game, which I have done for two, three years, and that’s made a big difference. Liam James on the swing.
“It’s not just one thing that makes you play well. Golf’s got so many different facets.
“Phil Kenyon on my putting, as well. I went to the pencil grip about two years now which has made a huge difference. When I get under pressure, I feel more comfortable under pressure. All that and playing well has bred confidence.
“I maybe don’t play as well as often anymore, but when I do play well, I tend to contend, and, you know, with the work I’ve done on the mental side of the game, I feel a lot more comfortable out there.
“I heard Jordan Spieth say something last week about he feels comfortable under pressure again and he’s enjoying being under pressure and he can cope with it.
“And that’s how I feel when I do get into the heat of battle and close to the lead; I feel comfortable again.”
Westwood gets his quest to become the oldest ever Masters winner underway alongside the defending champion and world number one Dustin Johnson, as well as the US Amateur champion Tyler Strafaci.
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