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August 22 2012

8:55 PM

Westwood eyes first Playoffs start

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Lee Westwood enters the FedExCup Playoffs ranked 51st after posting five top-10s this year

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- Lee Westwood didn't like being on the outside looking in when the FedExCup Playoffs rolled around the last few years.

He was intrigued by the way the pressure mounted each week. The list of winners was pretty darn impressive, too. So Westwood re-joined the PGA TOUR in 2012 and has played well enough this year to start the four-event series seeded a solid 51st.

And now that he's here on Long Island for the kickoff at The Barclays, the Playoffs are just what the affable Englishman expected.

"That's the reason I joined the TOUR this year, I suppose -- watching the Playoffs on TV last year and thinking that I was missing out on playing in some big tournaments," Westwood said. "After the majors are over there can be a bit of an anticlimax. But these come so quick after the PGA Championship that it's almost like there's something  to go at.

"I know that being a member of the European Tour, you know, we still are playing to the finale and all that. But these are massive events. They looked it on TV and I turned up at them, certainly this one, and I wasn't disappointed. It feels like a  big tournament." 

Westwood was a member of the PGA TOUR in 2008, which was the second year of the Playoffs. He was 50th when the Playoffs began but decided not to participate,  playing instead at the Johnnie Walker Championship prior to returning to the States for the Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kent.

While Westwood, who ranks No. 4 in the world, is playing in his first Playoffs, he has already grasped the sense of urgency that permeates the series. He knows the points are worth quintuple what they were during the Regular Season and those who don't play well are eliminated each week -- the fields dwindling from 125 to 100 to 70 to just 30 who head to East Lake for the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola with a chance to win the $10 million prize.

"It's a bit of a mad rush, isn't it, to the finishing line," Westwood said. "You have to play well this time of year to do well in it. ... There is a certain build-up to the rest of the year. But these are worth more points. You play poorly you don't progress. You play well you get a good chance to win it."

Westwood, who plans to move his family to the West Palm Beach, Fla., area during the offseason, has made some changes so he'll be able to play his best during this stretch run, too. He recently left his long-time coach Pete Cowan to begin working with Zimbabwe’s Tony Johnstone on his short game.

"I've never really worked with anybody on my long game -- that's in good order," Westwood said. "But I did four days work with Tony last week and I might have a few good ideas to try over the next few weeks."

Westwood missed the cut in his last start in the U.S. at the PGA Championship. But he has five top-10s in 11 starts on TOUR this year, including a tie for third at the Masters and a share of 10th at the U.S. Open.

He has some history at Bethpage State Park's Black Course, too. Westwood tied for 23rd there, shooting a 66 in the second round. 

"It's going to be interesting playing it this week dry," he said. "The other times we've been here it's been soaking wet. So it will play different dry. It's a good test.

"It's set up very similar to a U.S. Open with a little less rough but the same width fairways."

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