By Clifton Brown, PGATOUR.COM columnist
If you want to know Lee Westwood better, follow him on Twitter.
With more than 540,000 followers, Westwood enjoys the back-and-forth banter of social media. A wry sense of humor contributes to Westwood’s popularity.
Asked what he would be if not a professional golfer, Westwood tweeted, “Poor.”
Another fan asked Westwood what became of the all-orange outfit he once wore in 2011, to very mixed reviews.
“Burnt it,” Westwood tweeted.
When it comes to chasing his first major championship victory, however, Westwood turns serious. He made what you could call a "major" decision last winter, moving with his wife and two children from Westwood’s native England to Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Better weather. More opportunity to work on his short game, in conditions that closer resemble tournament play.
Westwood had the game to win anywhere, but finally decided he needed to live somewhere else. Allen Iverson may not think much of practice. Westwood does.
"Even when I practiced at home sometimes during the winter, I’m not sure how much it was helping," Westwood said during a phone interview last week. "The weather was cold. The greens weren’t the same."
Despite missing relatives and friends, Westwood is happy with the Florida move. Now he wants the payoff. Being in that elite group of best active players never to win a major championship has gotten old. Westwood has checked off virtually every other important career milestone. He has been ranked No. 1 in the world. He has won the European Order of Merit. He has won on the PGA TOUR, the Japan Tour, the Asian Tour, and the Australasian Tour. He has been a standout in Ryder Cup play.
Westwood turned 40 years old in April, and it’s getting later on his career clock. The majors have tested him, teased him, but refused to reward him. He has finished in the top 10 at four of the last five Masters. Other close calls include a second place at the British Open in 2010, a tie for third at the U.S. Open in 2011, and a tie for third at the PGA Championship in 2009.
If you come close that many times without winning, you have to wonder if it will ever happen. Which led to this question. If he never won a major, would Westwood consider his career unfulfilled?
"I tend not to think in those terms yet," Westwood said. "I still have time. I’d like to win not just one, but several majors. You can only go out and try as hard as you possibly can, and leave it all on the course. After that, you never know."
Maybe karma is on Westwood’s side. So far, 2013 has been a year of firsts. Adam Scott won his first major at the Masters. Justin Rose won his first major at the U.S. Open. Ken Duke got his first PGA TOUR victory at age 44 on Sunday. There have been 10 first-time winners on the PGA TOUR this season.
Seeing those breakthroughs has to give Westwood a boost. Rose’s victory is one that particularly resonated with Westwood, a fellow Englishman.
"I saw his final two holes, and I was rooting for J.R.," Westwood said. "He hit some great shots down the stretch."
Westwood had designs on winning at Merion, but he simply did not play well enough. He finished tied for 15th and got some bad breaks along the way. On Friday, while still tied for the lead, Westwood hit an approach shot on the 12th hole that took a wicked bounce off one of Merion’s famed wicker baskets. The ball bounced 30 yards back into the fairway, leading to a double bogey that sent a frustrated Westwood back to Twitter when the round ended.
"There’s a reason the rest of the world has moved onto flags!" Westwood tweeted.
Asked if tweeting was sometimes a way to vent, Westwood laughed and said, "It’s good in some ways, it’s bad in others. It’s a chance for fans to interact with you, get to know what you’re like away from the golf course. I enjoy the interaction I have with other players as well."
With two more chances to win a major this year, Westwood remains upbeat. He is committed to being based in Florida for at least the next four or five years. One of the world’s best ball-strikers for more than a decade, Westwood is convinced practicing in Florida will pay dividends for his short game.
"I’m already seeing some of the benefits," Westwood said. "I’ll be playing more tournaments in the U.S. than I used to over the next few years.
"You can see other players winning majors and say, 'Well, if those guys can do it, I can do it.' But I tend not to think that way. I have to do my own thing. Majors are difficult to win for everyone. But if you’re good enough, you’re good enough. Yes, I think I’m good enough."
Now that’s something Westwood would love to post on Twitter in a few weeks. A few pictures of himself, drinking from the Claret Jug.
Clifton Brown is a freelance columnist for PGATOUR.COM. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR.