TOUR Insider: Westwood's game trending up after move

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February 27, 2013

By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

Lee Westwood postponed it long enough. He had traveled to the Middle East, to California and to Arizona. This time, he could no longer avoid the issue.


He had to start unpacking boxes.

Westwood returned to his new Florida home this week and played the role of family man. He was running errands, unpacking those boxes and helping his family with their new West Palm Beach home.

Make no mistake. Westwood is neither “tempest-tost,” nor “wretched refuse.” He moved to Florida for his golf game -- he reasoned better weather and practice facilities would help his game -- the one around the greens. 

Westwood has long been regarded as a great driver of the golf ball, and a superb iron player. It's his putting and chipping that has held him back.

He had a practice green at his Worksop home in England, but he said he could never get the surface fast enough to replicate PGA TOUR surfaces. The soggy, chilly weather was not conducive to championship conditions and did not help his motivation.

Has the move helped?

The sample size is much too small to answer that question, but his numbers are trending in the right direction. In 2012, Westwood was 174th in strokes gained-putting, and 184th in scrambling. This year, Westwood is 54th and 27th, respectively. 

He is part of an immigrant wave of golfers residing in the West Palm Beach area. Need a game? Luke Donald is nearby. So are Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen, Rory McIlroy and Charl Schwartzel.

However, in the short term, the move will not be judged by birdies and bogeys. As the saying goes, “If Mom's not happy, nobody's happy.” 

That does not appear to be a problem either. Westwood reports wife, Laurae, along with children, Sam and Poppy, are tan and happy.

The only downside to the move is those boxes. They're not going to unpack themselves you know.

Observations

Conditions: The biggest changes this week are the time zone and putting surfaces. Players may take a couple days to adjust to the Eastern time zone and a couple more days to familiarize themselves with bermuda greens. After nearly a month of poa annua, the greens at PGA National are bermuda, overseeded with rye. Abundant rain and warm temperatures have left the course lush. With rain in the forecast, additional watering will not be necessary.

Form: It would be a mistake to use last week's results to analyze a golfer's form. Tiger Woods left Arizona with a quick defeat, but played well. In fact, he did not make a bogey in his match with Charles Howell III and missed just a single fairway. The volatile match play format, when conducted over just 18 holes, is not a good indicator of a player's game. 

Bunkers: Several bunkers on the course have been reworked. When new sand is added, it can lead to the dreaded “fried egg” lie. However, the new sand appears to have already compacted, and players will be able to spin the ball out of bunkers.

Bear Trap: Holes 15-16-17 get everyone's attention, but it's the 17th that creates the most problems. It's a 190-yard par-3 carved around a lake on the right. The wind usually whips from left to right, meaning every shot is being pushed toward the water. A bunker guards the bail-out left, so you are hitting a second shot downwind toward the water. On a blustery day, with a back right hole location, the 17th can play as one of the tougher par 3s of the entire PGA TOUR season.

Winner, winner: Graeme McDowell competes at match play with so much intensity, my only question is: Is he emotionally drained? He played beautifully at Dove Mountain, reaching the quarterfinals, and has a great track record at PGA National, posting back-to-back top-10s.

Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.

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