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Golf | US Masters

Lee patient in the face of major frustration

World No 3 Lee Westwood, searching for his first major golf title at age 38 after a host of near misses, remains patient entering Thursday's start of the 76th Masters despite the frustration.

The 38-year-old Englishman has finished in the top three at five of the past 10 major championships, including Masters and British Open runner-up efforts in 2010 and shares of third at the 2011 US Open and the 2009 British Open and PGA.

"It's quite frustrating at a time when you keep coming close," Westwood said.

One reason the British veteran has kept his cool after coming so close so often is the longevity of older players as contenders, aided by improved fitness and equipment technology advances, offers him more chances to contend.

"We, as golfers, keep ourselves fitter than probably we used to, so I think there's greater longevity in our careers now. Technology has had something to do with it as well. You can play better and longer," Westwood said.

"I see it continuing. We are almost more athletes now than we used to be, even though I don't like associating the word 'athlete' with myself."

Westwood, who played last week at Houston as a tuneup for the Masters, said his recent major results have given him confidence that he is due for a major breakthrough.

"I think it proves I'm capable of winning major championships," Westwood said. "Just have to keep doing that and put myself in position – when I get the chance, take it the next time."

Augusta National's undulating greens have kept Westwood working on his short game as well as a few shots seldom seen beyond the Georgia pine trees.

"Most of us focus on the short game this week," Westwood said. "Tee-to-green it's pretty much like any other golf course, but around the greens, it tests you to the limit, and on the greens, obviously with the speed of the greens.

"Every putt you have out there is a new challenge."

Among them is knowing where to miss a shot if you cannot put it exactly where you want.

"You can plot your way around, but missing it in the right place around this golf course is important," Westwood said. "It changes all the time. Sometimes you hit shots and you think you're all right and then you get up there and you're screwed, basically. It's a constant challenge. You have to adapt a lot.

"You need a lot of imagination this week."

Westwood led after 36 and 54 holes in 2010 before settling for second behind Phil Mickelson, but said he has felt more confident since then because he always saw Augusta National as a place where he should perform well.

"I've always looked forward to coming here and felt like the golf course should suit me," Westwood said. "Seem to be getting the hang of it. When you come close like that, it gives you an extra boost of confidence."

But at Augusta National, leads are seldom safe.

"That's the beauty of Augusta," Westwood said. "If you play well you have a good chance to make a few birdies. If you get out of position, you can make bogeys fast."


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