Westwood turns to psychologist in attempt to break major duck
Enough is enough for Lee Westwood. After more than a decade of resisting the urge and bucking the trend of the overwhelming majority of his rivals, the world No 2 is finally seeing a sports psychologist. And the fact he has already had a session with Bob Rotella, the celebrated mind doctor who inspired Darren Clarke to glory at the Open three weeks ago, will not be lost on many.
Nor, indeed, will the news that Westwood, after years of going to his father and coach Pete Cowen for putting advice, has sought the stewardship of Dave Stockton, as he prepares for next week's USPGA Championship. He just happens to be the guru who Rory McIlroy went to after his Masters meltdown in April and who proceeded to be credited with having so much influence on the young Ulsterman's stunning US Open victory two months later.
Both Clarke and McIlroy are Westwood's stable-mates, so it would be fair to assume he has taken the hint and gone to the two men who helped them to make their major breakthroughs. Not so, says the Englishman, who with five top-three finishes in his last eight majors easily holds the tag of "best player yet to win a major".
"No, I'd actually been thinking about it for a while," Westwood told The Independent at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in Akron yesterday. "I was with Bob on Sunday in Britain. The last time I sat down with him was more than 10 years ago, when I had an hour with him. Yeah, what he had to say was very interesting."
Westwood's admission will raise a few eyebrows, if only because of his recent declaration when asked why he did not follow the same mental route as his colleagues. "I've never felt like I've needed a sports psychologist," he said, almost exactly two years ago this week. "I've always felt quite mentally stable. No, look at them all. They all look a bit odd to me, like they're the ones who need to see somebody."
But now, after so many close misses, Westwood has taken the plunge with the man known simply as "Dr Bob", who as well as Clarke's Claret Jug also has Padraig Harrington's three majors on his CV. And although many will look at the last five majors – in which two more of the ISM stable, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, have also won – and deduce that this is a desperate throw of the dice, Westwood quite fairly puts it in the context of his meticulous preparations.
"I cover most bases, so that's somewhere I've not really explored," said the 38-year-old, who refused to skip a planned gym session to watch his horse, Hoof It, win the Stewards Cup at Goodwood on Saturday. "So I want to see if it helps. The mind's a massive part of the game isn't it? So it makes sense to see someone who knows what they're talking about. Why didn't I do it before? I don't know. Like I always said, I just didn't feel as if I needed it."
It is a similar story with his putting. Westwood will always listen to his father, John, when it comes to his motion on the short stuff, but his woeful showing on the greens at the Open, where he somehow missed the cut despite leading the tee-to-greens stats, plainly motivated him to seek another voice. Stockton, the former Ryder Cup captain, certainly did the trick with McIlroy before Congressional and although the light did not instantly flick on in the same manner, Westwood was positive. "He had some interesting ideas," he said. "He threw a lot at me so it's just a case of sifting out stuff I like."
For his part, Stockton believes he has found Westwood's problem. Together with his son, David Jnr, they enjoyed a session with Westwood here on Monday. "He tended to be very mechanical," said Stockton. "And so seeing Rotella tied into what we were telling him – to let it go and not be thinking."
With that in mind, the first thing the Stocktons asked Westwood to do for them was sign his autograph. "We told him 'you have to make up your mind that you're going to putt like you write your signature,'" said Stockton Snr. "Lee just laughed. He had a wonderful attitude. He was great to work with."
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