James Lawton: It took a while, but Lee Westwood deserves credit

Even though the fuss over Lee Westwood's rise to No 1 could be over almost before it has begun, it is no reason to dim the celebration when he tees off with Phil Mickelson in Shanghai for the World Championship tournament in the small hours of tomorrow morning.

His playing partner might just find one of his periodic eruptions of brilliance and plunge him back into the ranks. Tiger Woods could climb back to the top, nourishing the green shoots of recovery which Westwood thought he saw in the Ryder Cup. The German semi-wunderkind Martin Kaymer might come crashing through.

Yet not one of them has the power to diminish the extent of Westwood's achievement spread over a few years and marked by a remarkable resolve to make something more of a career that he finally saw was lapsing into a comfort zone of wealth and well-being supported by a natural-born talent – but not the distinguishing mark of a great champion, a burning and bloody resolve to inflict his gifts whatever his form or his mood.

If you want to be judgemental you can say it is a pity he didn't find a new dimension for his ambition somewhat earlier, say 10 years earlier, in which case he might not now still be pursuing the major title that has so often appeared to be within the range of his ability. If you say this, though, you will be merely echoing the words of arguably the most fanatical, and maybe sanctimonious, critic to be found on or off a fairway.

Back in 1997 Gary Player made a blistering comparison between Westwood and his friend Darren Clarke. He said that both of them were enjoying too quickly the fruits of early success. He cited Clarke's cigar and Westwood's girth and then spoke of something else he had seen earlier that day. It was Tiger Woods going to the gym. "He's building his strength, he's investing in his future," said the man who has been known to provide a stream of consciousness on both the golf swing and the meaning of existence lasting several hours and without any perceptible drawing of breath. However, if Westwood didn't like what he heard, few others were able to resist the fact that there was plainly something of value in what was being said.

After the days of Ballesteros and Faldo, Lyle and Woosnam and Olazabal, it was indeed as though a great blanket of contentment had descended upon the pick of a new generation. They might be good enough to win majors but, if they didn't it was hardly possible, given the level of their gifts, to stop the money flowing in.

Westwood was approaching his mid-thirties when he stopped and looked at himself, more truly he confessed, than perhaps ever before. He saw a man with an enviable life but one also lacking a hard edge – or the re-assurance that he had worked hard enough, hurt hard enough, to win some of the biggest prizes that had been set before him.

At 37, Westwood may find the ultimate quest for a major title elusive. He may still mourn the years when he was a little too easy on himself. Heaven knows, it would not place him in a unique position, and certainly not in the age of English football extravagance and underachievement.

Yet there will now, whatever happens in the next few years, always be some high quality solace. Before it was reasonable to say that it was too late, he reached out to find the best of himself. In the end, even Gary Player could ask for no more.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Sport
SPORT
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick