Golf

Westwood takes relaxed approach

Tiger Woods talks about the upcoming British Open.
Tiger Woods talks about the upcoming British Open.
GolfWeek Alistair Tait
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LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England

One sounds as if he’s ready to sit through a major examination, the other one seems to have turned up for a pub quiz.

Those seem to be the respective approaches of Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood. It will be interesting to see which attitude bears fruit.

Woods talked at length about the strategy needed to play Royal Lytham.

Listen to him talk about trying to avoid Lytham’s most formidable line of defense: “The bunkers are staggered differently here,” Woods said about the 206 sand traps on the golf course. “There’s some forced carries to where you have to force it and then stop it or try to skirt past them. You can’t just either lay up or bomb over the top. There has to be some shape to shots.”

As for Westwood, his attitude couldn’t be more laissez-faire.

“I think it’s a fair golf course and one that’s a lot harder than it looks at first impression,” Westwood said. “People say it’s very flat and almost dull-like, but the more you play, I think the more you enjoy it. I played a lot of Lytham Trophies and a couple of Opens here.”

Westwood has a big advantage because of his knowledge of Royal Lytham. He doesn’t have to study the course perhaps in the same detail as Woods. However, the Englishman is so laid back this week he’s nearly horizontal.

“I’m fairly relaxed,” Westwood said. “I’m always fairly relaxed now. There’s not a lot that gets to me, winds me up.”

“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him this relaxed,” manager Chubby Chandler said.

Woods has three wins this year, but he’s had some poor performances too. He finished 40th at the Masters, 21st at the US Open and missed the cut at his most recent tournament, The Greenbrier Classic.

“If I knew the answer I’d tell you, but I don’t,” Woods said about the disparity in his performances. “I just keep trying to work and keep trying to get better. I’m just trying to get better, get more consistent.”

While Woods can’t find the answer in his game, Westwood acts like he couldn’t care less about his own.

“I think I’ve gotten more relaxed and just sort of played and let the cards fall where they may,” Westwood said.

Woods hasn’t won a major since the 2008 US Open while Westwood is still searching for his first. If the two men have one thing in common this week, it’s that they know they need to stay close to the leaderboard through the first three rounds to give themselves a chance on Sunday.

“I just try and put myself there,” Woods said. “I think if I continue putting myself there enough times then I’ll win major championships.”

Ditto for Westwood. “I think it’s hard to press in major championships. You sort of have to edge your way in there and play sort of conservatively and get in position for the weekend and Sunday afternoon on the back nine and see where you are.”

Both men are also good at defusing difficult questions. In Tiger’s case it concerned the fact he hasn’t won one of the marquee events in four years. Injuries played a part, but he also pointed to another factor that has kept him from getting his hands on major silverware.

“I think the fields are deeper,” Woods said. “I think there are more guys now who have a chance to win major championships than ever before. I think that will just continue to be that way.”

Westwood doesn’t do serious and analytical like Woods. He resorts to self-deprecating wit, especially when it comes to a particularly sore subject.

“People have said the previous winners have all got great short games, and apparently I haven’t got much of a short game,” a sarcastic Westwood said at the opening of his press conference.

The Englishman hates the subject, but of course since he brought it up it meant he received further questions on his seeming inability to chip and putt.

“I don’t think you can get to No. 1 in the world without much of a short game, so that question is fairly easy to answer.”

When he was pressed he got about as curt as he was going to get without getting uptight. “I’m sure I’ve answered the short game question and sucked that lemon dry by now.”

That was as animated and serious as Westwood got. The rest was a matter-of-fact conversation compared to a more thoughtful approach from Woods.

Will serious win out over laid back? We’ll find out.

Tagged: Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood

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