Lee Westwood finishes a year driven by change

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 17, 2013 at 3:38 pm •  Published: December 17, 2013
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This has been a season of big change for Lee Westwood, and his debut last week in the Shark Shootout was an example.

He typically is on the other side of the world this time of the year, having won the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa in 2011 and 2012, and the Thailand Golf Championship two years ago. But this marks one year since Westwood moved his family from England to Florida to take it easy on the jet lag and allow for more practice in warm weather.

He ended the year without a win anywhere in the world.

Westwood, a two-time Order of Merit winner on the European Tour, attributed his results to change, though that entails more than location. He also began working with Sean Foley. He had a new caddie for most of the year until reuniting this month with Billy Foster.

Asked what held him back this year, Westwood chalked it up to the "lack of continuity."

"So many changes, really," he said as he headed into the final month of his season. "It's impossible to quantify the effect that has. Starting with a new coach, changing tours, changing caddies the end of last year, all of it has an effect."

He also said there were struggles with consistency in his swing. Westwood had a close call at Quail Hollow, and he had the lead going into the final round of the British Open, which was won by Phil Mickelson more than anyone lost it.

"I haven't been settled in a swing all year," Westwood said. "When you're a professional, you can have good results without hitting it well. I haven't had a week where I hit it properly. I didn't even hit it well in the Open. I just know how to get around and I putted well."

Westwood turned 40 this year, and while he dropped to No. 25 in the world after starting at No. 7, he believes that will turn. More changes are planned for 2014, but only as it relates to his travel schedule. Instead of starting in Middle East, he doesn't expect to play regular European Tour events until May.

He is thinking of playing Torrey Pines, the Phoenix Open and Riviera on the West Coast swing.

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FATHER & SON: Except for having the 54-hole lead and contending at the British Open, one of the best moments for Lee Westwood this year was playing with his father in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Graeme McDowell will experience that in February.

McDowell and his father, Kenny, will be partners at Pebble Beach. It's the first time they have been there since 2010, when McDowell won the U.S. Open and his father said to him on the 18th green that Sunday, "You're something, kid."

Asked for his favorite memory of his father, McDowell went back to his roots in Northern Ireland when he was too young to play the Dunluce course at Royal Portrush.

"Until you're 15 years old or have a 15-handicap, you play the Valley Course," he said. "I remember sneaking out with my dad on a summer's evening on the Dunluce course when I was not eligible to be out there, sneaking out there for a few holes one summer evening and feeling like I was literally at Augusta National. Those are special times."

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THE GULBIS PRANK: In the January issue of "Golf Digest," Michelle Wie writes a series of tales that includes her first Kraft Nabisco Championship at age 13. And it shows why there's always more to Natalie Gulbis than might appear.

Wie said that on the fifth hole she put a new golf ball into play. She mentioned this to Gulbis on the sixth fairway.

"She stops me and gives me a look of shock," Wie wrote. "'You can't do that out here,' she says. 'That's a two-stroke penalty. You need to go back to the tee.' I was speechless, on the verge of tears. Just as I turned to start walking back to the tee, Natalie said, 'Just kidding.'"

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