Golf: Westwood makes rapid ascent of the learning curve

He has won six times in the last 16 months, starred as a rookie in the Ryder Cup and swapped his Porsche for a Mercedes. And he is still only 24. Andy Farrell thinks the positives mount up for Lee Westwood because he has developed the knack of never looking at the negatives.

In less time than it takes to beat Greg Norman in a sudden-death play- off, Lee Westwood has become a household name. In Malaysia. When the Malaysian Open champion returned recently to the country where he has a course attachment, he was welcomed by a group children aged between nine and 13 wearing Lee Westwood T-shirts, Lee Westwood caps and who had composed a song in his honour.

"Until they find a world class player of their own," explained Westwood's manager, Andrew Chandler, "they have adopted Lee as a champion to look up to." It helped, naturally, that Westwood had just won three times in five weeks. Yet, though it meant extending a round-the-trip away from home to 48 days, the 24-year-old from Worksop enthusiastically went about his sponsor's obligations. And what of the reaction? His answer befitted someone who is both unassuming, but self-confident. "That's all right," he said. "Hopefully, that will be worldwide."

In Australia, television executives prompted an invitation to the Australian Masters in February after Westwood's last-day battle with Norman in Melbourne. He may not yet be a national celebrity in Britain, but he is officially recognised as a good sport who is game for a laugh after his appearance on the segment of the BBC's Sports Review of the Year which is more like, well, Game for a Laugh. In trying to recreate Jeremy Guscott's famous drop-goal for the Lions in South Africa, Westwood's efforts were straight, not something all his fellow contestants managed, but the fact he failed to clear the bar revealed a childhood that was more football than rugby.

Until his father John, a schoolmaster, took him to play at Worksop Golf Club. It was there, a week before Christmas, that Westwood fulfilled his last engagements with the media for the year. With him were his parents and Chandler, a former player, universally known as Chubby, whose stable also includes the Open runner-up Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Andrew Coltart.

Westwood, who sustained himself during his lengthy trip with the thought of driving the new Mercedes with which he has replaced his Porsche, had every reason to celebrate over the festive season. Third on the European money list, he made the cut in all four major championships. Only 15 other players achieved that feat, and only two, Colin Montgomerie and Jesper Parnevik, were also European. (As a reference, Westwood twice tied and once beat the player he is most compared with, the Masters champion, Tiger Woods.)

Then came the Ryder Cup at Valderrama, where Westwood was one of a number of young European rookies to play well, winning two points in partnership with Nick Faldo. You got the impression the combination worked because it never occurred to Westwood to be in awe of the six-times major winner. Finally, there were those last five weeks which brought Westwood over pounds 500,000, but more importantly plenty of world ranking points (he moved from 64th to 23rd during 1997) and three additions to a list of victories which stands at six in the last 16 months.

After victory in the Volvo Masters at Montecastillo in Spain, Westwood finished second to Mark Calcavecchia in the Sarazen World Open in Atlanta, defended his Visa Taiheiyo title in Japan and after a 20th place in the Dunlop Phoenix, moved on to Melbourne where he beat Norman at the fourth extra hole to claim the Australian Open. "It has sunk in now, but it didn't at the time. You just go from one tournament to the next. It was a fantastic five weeks. I've looked at everybody and can't see anyone who has had a five-week spell like that.

"Once you win one, you think let's win another one and then it's, I've just won two, maybe I can win another one. The thought process changes."

Top of his list is the Australian Open, not only since it is the biggest title he has won but because of the realisation that it came with beating the Great White Shark in home waters: "That I could compete at the highest level. If you can do it against the world No 1, you can do it against anyone. The Ryder Cup and that has all contributed to it. To become a good player, you have to play with the best in the world. I played with the best players over those five weeks and was fortunate enough to beat most of them. I'm very happy with the way things are going."

Not the least of Westwood's attributes is his attitude to play-offs, in which he has a won-three, lost-none record. "It's not a problem when the worst you can do is second," he said. He sees no stigma in losing play-offs, as Norman has done more often than he has won them. "It's quite a nice achievement to have, to be honest, losing all four majors in play- offs."

"He doesn't see the need to be negative," Chandler confirms. "That's probably the difference between him and all the others." So when he had a succession of near-misses to Jose Maria Olazabal at the Canaries Open, Bernhard Langer in the Benson and Hedges International, and twice to Colin Montgomerie in the European Grand Prix and the Irish Open, Westwood just thought: "They can't keep doing this. If I could keep my confidence then, you're going to win one sooner or later."

"I never actually gave any of those tournaments away," he said. "Every time they were taken off me, like Langer shooting the best round of the day at the B&H." Then there were the two with Montgomerie. "Which two with Monty?" Westwood replies, ever so slightly mischievously. "You mean, when he shot 62 on the last day of the Irish Open and 65 on the last day at Slaley? Both course records. I don't think they went too badly. At Slaley, I finished third and in the Irish Open I beat Nick Faldo by two to finish second, took pounds 80,000 home, moved up the world rankings and secured my place in the Ryder Cup team. It didn't go that badly, did it?"

Still, others might have suffered from the experience. "Having a three- shot lead and losing by seven? It's how you approach it. I didn't take anything negative out of a performance like that. If I had shot an 84 on the last day, then I would have thought: `What a choker'. But I shot 72 around a difficult golf course, in contention. I didn't play great, but I held it together while someone was shooting nine under next to me. I would have needed to shoot a 65 just to tie, and that's what I scored to set the course record in the first place on the first day. Then, defending champion and all, he shoots a 62 to win. He said in all the papers that the 65 in the first round of the US Open was the best round of his life, but I'd have to say that the 62 in the last round of the Irish was the best round of his life."

Montgomerie's tendency to raise his game when playing alongside Westwood is as eloquent an endorsement as the Scot could provide verbally. Westwood will play around a dozen times in America next year but will not move there full-time. "I've got lots more goals to accomplish in Europe," he said. Like breaking the five-year run at the top of the money list of Montgomerie, who also decided to stay mainly in Europe. "It's a bit of a shame, really," Westwood jokes. "It would have been nice to get rid of him."

If Westwood's laid-back approach suggests he is not taking in what is happening around him, then think again. "I learnt little things from a lot of people, not necessarily things that other people will think are big things, but they have certainly helped me over the last five weeks. I got into a situation that they were in and thought so-and-so did this here, or that there. I learnt a lot from Bernhard Langer in the last round of the Benson and Hedges, more than anybody. It was interesting to see how he plotted his way around the golf course. When the flags were tucked away, he would go away from the trouble, to the middle of the greens where he knew he could two-putt from. He was very impressive in that last round.

"I enjoyed playing with Faldo at the Ryder Cup. It was impressive to see how professional he was and how unprofessional I was. To say I was like 31st in the world, and he was a former world No 1, it was interesting to see the difference between our approaches. I'm not saying I was unprofessional, but it was interesting to see how he and Bernhard Langer used practice rounds, for example.

"I played with Langer and up the first, he walked into the right hand rough and had a look at how it was, then walked over to the left hand rough, while I've walked up the middle, knocked it on the green and holed it for a three and was thinking I was having a great practice round. But he has actually used it as a practice round, preparing for the match. But then he was playing in his eighth Ryder Cup, while I was like, `there are 30,000 people here all cheering for us'. But I set out at the beginning of the week to learn a few things from the Ryder Cup and I did."

Ultimately, however, it was a putting tip from his coach, Peter Cowen, prior to the Volvo Masters which sparked his winning run. He won't reveal what the tip was, but the important point is how he describes it changing his putting from being "very, very average to reasonable". That suggests there is room for improvement. "You can always improve. Everyone is striving for perfection. Don't think anyone will get there, but I'd like to get fairly close to it. The only way you can do that is by working at it and learning all the time.

"If you take Tiger Woods' driving, long and straight, Tom Watson's iron play, Langer's head, Justin Leonard's putting, Greg Norman's short game. No one has got everything, and they have not got what they have without working on those things really hard."

Work on his chipping and putting, and fitness, will be the priority when he returns to business after the Christmas break. First, there was a burning question. "When do we finally get to see Lee?" asked Westwood's mother, Trish. "After our Christmas party tomorrow," said Chandler, "then he's all yours."

Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
Sport
Vincenzo Nibali rides into Paris on the final stage of the 2014 Tour de France
Tour de FranceVincenzo Nibali is first Italian winner since Marco Pantani in 1998
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Sport
Red Bull Racing's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo (C) celebrates with Scuderia Ferrari's Spanish driver Fernando Alonso (L) and Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton
sport
Arts and Entertainment
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmComedy was dominated by the romcom at its most insufferable
Sport
Tour de France competitor Bartosz Huzarski’s legs have highlighted the gruelling nature of the race, after he posted a picture on Facebook showing extremely prominent veins stretching from his feet and all the way up his legs
Commonwealth Games
Life and Style
Elle Kaye demonstrates the art of taxidermy
food + drinkFood revolution taken a step further in new ‘edible taxidermy’ class
News
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
video
Sport
Halsall broke her personal best in the 50m butterfly
Commonwealth GamesEnglish swimmer is reborn after disastrous time at London 2012
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Voices
The Express offices in the 1930s when writers (such as Orwell) were paid around £2 weekly
voicesWebsites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
A cut above: Katy Guest at The Ginger Pig
food + drinkThe Ginger Pig's hands-on approach to primary cuts
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Early Years Teachers Required

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Early Years Teachers ...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

Qualified Early Years Teachers Required

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualifed Early Years ...

Do you want to work in Education?

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energetic gradu...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried