Stories of rising and falling in golf are too many to mention. Stories of golfers rising, falling, and rising again are rare — especially when they rise back to be the number one ranked golfer in the world. It seemed Lee Westwood for years was the young, charismatic European who was always giving Monty a run during his reign. In the late 90′s, the golfing world was anticipating the breaking point of Lee being a house hold name included with the Woods’, Love’s, Mickelson’s and Duval’s, but it never happened that way.
Lee and his father started the game at the same time and had their first ever birdie on the same hole. Lee was 13. His father was a math teacher and Lee was an athlete who played multiple sports including rugby, football, cricket, and cross country. An insightful piece from the Sunday Times, talks not only about his fierce competitiveness but also the relationship with his family:
If competitiveness can be taught, it was taught to Lee. “He and I used to have swimming races on holiday,” John (his father) said. “If it was diving, I might give him a mark occasionally and then he would try and beat that mark. We did press-ups against one another. When he was little we would roll cars to see who could get it closer to the edge of the table. We would arm-wrestle. The competition was not vicious. When he won, he got rewarded.”
Dancing Helped Him Along the Way
Lee also had skills on the dance floor:
Three times each week, Bert and Joan (his grandparents) taught old-time and modern-sequence dancing in Worksop and took their best pupils to the national championships. Lee was one such, briefly, and was highly commended in his first exam, aged 9. “I did it because I thought it would help my balance and footwork, and it did help my balance,” he said.
A solid but not spectacular junior and amateur golf career prompted him to turn pro in 1993.
The Rise and Fall
It took Lee three years to win his first European Tour event. Within four years of his first victory, he ranked 4th in the world by capturing 21 victories within that time.
Fast forward 2 years and Westwood plummeted to 256th in the world. A combination of swing, mental, and personal changes resulted in the drop. How low did it get? He had serious conversations about quitting the game:
‘The frustration was so unbearable at times that there were conversations I had with my dad, my wife Laurae and Chubby (Chandler, his manager) where I talked about quitting, and it was no idle threat,’ Westwood revealed.
‘I remember one particularly low point at Slaley Hall, where I had won a couple of years earlier and I shot 79, 82 or something like that, and I really had little idea how to keep the ball on the golf course.”
‘I couldn’t work any harder, I was getting nowhere, and when you get to that stage you just feel you’ve exhausted all your options and you’ve nowhere else to turn. That’s why I feel that coming back from all that is the biggest thing I have achieved.
Times were tough.
The Rise Again – How he did it.
Many lesser men would have called it a career. Revisiting articles and interviews about Lee, you can outline the steps he took to get his game back to peak form.
Found the right mentorship – Lee has been vocal on how much Faldo has helped him return to peak form. Getting mental and emotional guidance from someone who’s succeeded was one of the first steps.
Trusted his talent – For the first part of his career, Lee sought help from swing coaches including David Leadbetter, Butch Harmon, Bob Torrance, and Pete Cowan. One can only imagine the mixed messages. Now, he’s mostly working with Pete Cowen, but there have been mixed reports of how often.
Transformed his physical fitness – In 2007, Westwood’s weight not only prohibited him from performing shots, but it was also began hurting his knees.
Surrounded himself with the best people – Westwood brought on veteran caddy, Billy Foster. Foster has worked with Lee’s good friend Darren Clarke, as well as Sergio Garcia.
Kept his head grounded - Almost every article or interview mentions Lee’s down-to-earth approach to life. I would add more, but I think the video below will do the last point justice.
Westwood sings karaoke!
I’ll be rooting for Lee this upcoming season. He’s ready for a major win.