By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
-- 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
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.''