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April 9 2011

12:59 AM

Westwood can climb to No. 1 with a win

By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent AUGUSTA, GA -- Lee Westwood chuckled that he worked so hard on his putting Thursday afternoon that he got sunstroke. Whatever works, right? Friday, Westwood found the touch he was missing all last week at the Shell Houston Open and all day Thursday. Instead of watching putts dive off or come up short, instead of letting another good round slip away, he threw out a second-round 67 and moved into contention going into the weekend at Augusta National. And, oh, opened the door for him to move back to No. 1 in the world. With current world No. 1 Martin Kaymer missing the cut, the door is open for Westwood. But there's only one way for him to get there -- win. And that would mean winning not just anything, but  his first major championship. He's working on it. That 67 puts him at 139 going into the weekend, tied with Fred Couples, Y.E. Yang, Ricky Barnes and Rickie  Fowler. Five shots behind second-round leader Rory McIlroy. Four behind second-place Jason Day. Three behind Tiger Woods and K.J. Choi. Someone asked him what a couple of 67s on the weekend would do for him. "I shot 13‑under last year  (to finish second) and it would have been 17 of the previous 21; so who is to say 15‑under would win this time,'' he said. "Wouldn't have won last year. "I'm just going to go out there and try and play as hard and do my best and make as many birdies and eagles as possible and as few bogeys.  It's as simple as that.'' He left Houston frustrated after switching putters and missing way too many short putts. He grumbled that if he'd made 'em he'd have been right there with winner Phil Mickelson and runner-up Scott Verplank at the end. Instead, he tied for 30th. He brushed off a scare when the private plane he took from Houston via Orlando to Augusta had to double back when smoke filled the cabin. He laughed that it definitely wasn't his putter that was on fire. And now? He worked overtime and it's paying off. "You try not to let the frustration on the greens affect and infiltrate your long game, and just ‑‑ Pete (Cowen, his coach) said to me on the range before, he said, "You can't let the fact that you're missing a few putts ‑‑ you're one of the few people in the field that's capable of winning based on long game alone," the way I'm hitting it tee‑to‑green.'' But now, he's comfortable on the greens, too. "I think it's a slight advantage to me that they are as quick as they are,'' he said. " There are big breaks on them.  It encourages me to use feel a lot more and I think that's probably what's been lacking from my stroke.  These are nice greens for me to putt on, yeah.'' He even poured in a 30-footer on the 15th Friday. Then came the questions about the young kids like McIlroy, Day and Fowler. And how he felt the first time he was in the mix for a major championship. "Probably here in '99 was the first time I contended for a major,'' he said of his tie for sixth. And the feeling going into that weekend? "You're nervous, yeah, for sure,'' he said  "Nothing wrong with nerves.  It's how you cope with them.  Nothing like being nervous walking down the 11th hole with all that water.''
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