Altvater: Westwood’s Hall of Fame career missing only major titleWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
Many people have forgotten that Lee Westwood spent 22 weeks as the No. 1 ranked player in the world in the latter part of 2010 and early 2011. Most golf fans think of him as a very good European Tour player that has not won a major championship.
Westwood will turn 41 years old this week and won the Maybank Malaysian Open for his 23rd European Tour win last Sunday. He also has four wins in Japan, seven on the Asian Tour, three wins on the Sunshine Tour and one Australasia Tour win.
He has two victories on the PGA Tour, the 1998 Freeport-McDermott Classic in New Orleans and the 2010 St. Jude Classic in Memphis.
Prior to the win in Malaysia, his last win came on the European Tour at the 2012 Nordea Masters nearly two years ago.
He has been a major performer on eight European Ryder Cup teams and will, most likely, be a key member of Captain Paul McGinley’s team at Gleneagles in September.
He is just one of a few golfers to win on every continent of the world and has recovered from the depths of golfing disparity. After a very successful start to his golfing career, he completely lost his desire and game. He fell to No. 182 in the world in 2002 before beginning his climb back, culminated by reaching No. 1 at the end of 2010.
Even with the success that Westwood has had in his 20-year career, most golf fans think of him at the top of the dreaded Best Player That Hasn’t Won a Major list. He has played very well in majors, but has not been able to win one. Since 2008, he has finished inside the top 10 in 12 of the last 25 major championships.
In that time, he finished T-3 six times and was runner-up twice.
Between the 2012 and 2013 seasons, he even moved his family from England to Florida to be able to practice during the winter and better prepare for the major championships.
His good friend Darren Clarke won the 2011 Open Championship at the age of 42. Ernie Els was also 42 when he won the 2012 Open Championship at Royal Lytham. Phil Mickelson was 43 when he won last year at Muirfield, but Westwood knows his time to win at least one career major is fleeting.
At 41, Westwood still has a couple years remaining, but very few major championships are won by players over 45 years old.
In modern golf history only four men have accomplished that feat. Julius Boros was 48 when he won the 1968 PGA Championship. Jack Nicklaus was 46 in 1986 when he won his sixth green jacket. Jerry Barber won the 1961 PGA Championship at the age of 45 and Hale Irwin was 45 when he won his third U.S. Open title.
Old Tom Morris won the 1867 Open Championship at the age of 46, but the fields were less competitive back then.
Forty wins worldwide, a member of six winning Ryder Cup teams and 22 weeks at No. 1. He has won nearly €30 million on the European Tour and another $16 million on the PGA Tour. Westwood has had a career worthy of World Golf Hall of Fame consideration. The only jewel missing in his crown is a major championship trophy.
Tags: Darren Clarke, Ernie Els, Fred Altvater, green jacket, Hale Irwin, Hall of Fame, Jack Nicklaus, Jerry Barber, Julius Boros, Lee Westwood, Masters, Maybank Malaysian Open, PGA Tour, Phil Mickelson, The Back Nine