Short game is major key for Westwood, says coach

London: Lee Westwood`s consistent ball striking has taken him to the top of the world rankings but he needs to improve on and around the greens to end the search for that elusive first major win, according to his coach Pete Cowen.

"The short game is the key area and we are working on that the whole time," Cowen told reporters in a telephone interview on Monday. "He works tirelessly on it."

"We know that if you don`t hole that 10-foot putt at the crucial time then you`re not going to win."

"I never say change, I say try and improve. Sometimes you do go backwards for a short while before you come forwards but we never stop trying to improve, no matter what it is," added Cowen.

"If you keep knocking on the door like he`s doing then eventually it will open and he`s going to walk through it. I don`t think there is any course that doesn`t suit him."

Briton Westwood, who displaced Tiger Woods as world number one at the start of November, has finished in the top five at a major championship on seven occasions without achieving a breakthrough triumph.

Cowen, who coaches a host of leading golfers including British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and US Open winner Graeme McDowell, said Westwood was always searching for a way to stay ahead of his competitors.

"A little bit better in the gym, a little better body action, better coordination between arm, hand and the club, body movement, the mechanics, get those absolutely perfect," added the 59-year-old Englishman.

"It is constant maintenance."

Westwood, 37, though is a phlegmatic Englishman and his grounded approach to golf and life in general will never change, said his coach.

"Lee never panics. He`s never been the type to panic. He knows now he`s the best golfer in the world," said Cowen.

"He`s always said `If you`re feeling down about yourself just go to the kids` hospital and see them struggling with cancer but still smiling`, that gives him inspiration."

Westwood often does charity work at Sheffield Children`s Hospital near the northern England home he shares with his wife and two children.

Cowen first teamed up with the Ryder Cup stalwart between 1995-2000 before renewing their partnership in 2008.

"You teach the player and not the method," said the coach. "You`ve got to understand your players totally, sometimes they don`t need you they`re playing so well."

"At other times they need a lot more of your time. That`s the juggling act of a coach."

"Sometimes it`s not you that wins, it`s the others that don`t win themselves. Jack Nicklaus always said he was gifted more tournaments than he won."

American great Nicklaus holds the record for most major victories with 18.

Cowen said Westwood`s consistency of performance was now so good that he expected him to play well in every major.

"If everything`s correct, if his game`s in great shape, yes I would expect him to win," said the coach. "But I expect him to perform in every major now and you can be sure he will perform in them."

"He`s got to keep doing the same things. He doesn`t have to do anything special but just has to keep doing what he`s doing a little bit better."

"His fitness is tremendous, he`s very strong mentally and he copes with difficult situations as well as anybody. So when he puts himself under those sorts of pressures, he`s going to come through, there`s no doubt about it," added Cowen.

"Triple major winner Padraig Harrington said to me at the Ryder Cup in October, `Lee Westwood is the best golfer in the world`. When you get those sorts of accolades you know you can`t be far away."

Bureau Report


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