Lee takes Masters preparation to Texas
World No 3 Lee Westwood has taken his Masters preparation to the US PGA Houston Open this week with hopes of pulling off his first major triumph next week at Augusta National.
The 38-year-old Englishman has finished in the top three at five of the past 10 major championships, including runner-up in both the Masters and British Open in 2010 and joint-third at the 2011 US Open and the 2009 British Open and PGA.
"I think it proves I'm capable of winning major championships," Westwood said on Tuesday. "Lot of Top-3s and just have to keep doing that and put myself in position – when I get the chance, take it the next time."
Instead of hanging his head over near-misses, Westwood has taken confidence from coming so close.
"It makes me look forward to major championships a lot more than I used to," Westwood said. "I think my game is better equipped to tackle major championship golf courses."
A reason for that is sharpening his skills in the week before a major rather than resting or playing practice rounds.
"I like to be competitive the week before the Masters," Westwood said. "It's a tough test at Augusta. If you don't go into it competitively sharp, you are not going to hit all the greens, going to have to get up and down.
"It just seems like it's more important at the Masters to keep the momentum going."
Houston offers fast greens to prepare Westwood for the undulating and lightning-quick putting surfaces on offer at the Masters.
"It would be hard for me to go from being at home to straight into competitive play at Augusta," he said.
"It's nice to get on fast greens because you can't practice this time of year, the greens are in poor condition and you can't get them faster."
Westwood skipped an early practice round at Augusta National this year, saying the course changes so much for the tournament that the benefits were minimal.
"Next week's greens will be faster than most greens we putt on all year," Westwood said. "I feel like I've got a good enough game to cope with those things."
What he will also have to deal with is a star-studded field of in-form players including World No 1 Luke Donald, World No 2 Rory McIlroy and 14-time major winner Tiger Woods coming off the end of a 2 1/2-year US PGA win drought.
"It's a marketing man's dream to get everybody playing well going into the first major," Westwood said. "It's good for golf."
And no stage in golf every season has rivaled Augusta National for intense drama, especially on the back-nine on Sunday when no lead is 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. The 2 and 3-shot swings are possible around there."