Lee Westwood, a noted slow starter, was just as surprised as anyone when, at the age of 46, he entered the first tournament of the year on the European Tour, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, won. It made him the only active player on the tour to win in four different decades.
"Historically, I've been the type of player who had to play my way into form," he said. “I threw that out the window when I won the first event. It just took me by surprise.
Within two months of that hot start, the strangest wave year began. The Covid-19 pandemic shut down major golf tours for months. When professional golf resumed in the spring, it became one of the few live sports on television as one of the few live sports on television. And Westwood has had a worldwide career. Including his 25 wins on the European Tour, Westwood has 44 worldwide wins, of which 12 in Asia, three in South Africa, two in the United States and one in Australia. In more than 800 tournaments on the two major tours, the PGA and the European, he has completed more than 80 percent of the time.
And at this week's DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, he is ranked fourth in points in the Race to Dubai, a year's points race that determines the best player on the European Tour.
The following interview has been edited and condensed.
In addition, for winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, your game with the majors was solid. You had a great start at the Masters this year, tied for 13th at the United States Open and tied for fourth at the last British Open. What do you attribute to the continued strong game?
I just still want to work. It's hard work leading up to the tournament. Everyone gets excited about playing in a tournament. I think people are losing the drive to get to that point. I am still fit and strong. It's not like I've lost my height. If you look at it analytically, there is no reason why I shouldn't play well. I have experience on my side. Majors have a slightly different approach. You have to think a little more about the golf course. Par means much more. For me at a U.S. Open or Open Championship is plotting your way on a golf course. It plays in my game.
You have been a global player for decades. What was travel for tournaments like this year?
Well, it was dictated by the pandemic. We were closed in March, April and May. Until September, I didn't feel comfortable going too far. I went to Europe, and I didn't feel like going too far until I got a picture of what things were like. The U.S. Open [at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y.] was the first time I went to the United States. If your job travels through all these time zones, that really goes out the window.
How important is it to play around the world for a player's development?
You become much more rounded as a person. You have to play on different courses, different grasses, different greens. It can be part of your development as a player. Ultimately, what people want to see are the top players who play together in the same tournaments more often. It's okay to see everyone play in the United States. That's where the money is. But I think we should have tournaments in Australia, South Africa, South America where all the great players come together. The pandemic has shown that golf is not broken. It does not need to be repaired. It just needs to be shared around the world.
Your 2020 season will come to an end in Dubai, with seven tournaments in the United States and 14 in the European Tour. How would you summarize this year for you and other global players?
It's very difficult to sit back and judge it. There were five months off halfway through, where I just sat around, really. After that I played a lot in Europe, not too successful. I played well in the U.S. Open. It's been a weird one. One of the good things that came out is that I lost 12 pounds [about 26 pounds]. I will be fitter next season. After Dubai I take a month off and start again in Abu Dhabi.