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Heading In The Right Direction

This weekend, two of the game’s marquee players ended winless droughts.

Former World #1, Lee Westwood, cruised to a seven shot victory at the Maybank Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur to win his first European Tour event in over two years.

After being delayed by weather concerns in the middle of the final round, Westwood finished in style shooting a closing 4-under 68 that would give him an impressive four day total of 18-under at the Kuala Lumpur Country Club.

Some would lay the blame for the 40 year old Westwood’s slump at his decision to change coaches from his long-time teacher, Pete Cowan, to Sean Foley in 2013.  That relationship would last only seven months until January of this year when the Englishman would sever ties with the man that teaches Tiger Woods.  Prior to switching to Foley, Westwood had been mentored by Peter Cowan since turning professional in 1993.

Six weeks ago, Westwood began working with Mike Walker who learned his craft under Cowan’s tutelage and was the Director of Instruction at the renowned teacher’s Academy.  Not surprisingly, Westwood began playing better almost immediately after returning to the swing that had served him so well for so long.  Two weeks ago at the Masters, Westwood would be in contention in Sunday’s final round and finished in 7th place in an encouraging return to form.

In addition to the coaching flips, Westwood had severed his partnership with his long-time caddy, Billy Foster, in 2012.  It was a move that shocked most of the golf world as the highly regarded ‘looper’ had been a mainstay throughout his career and the two were also great friends.  They would re-unite 18 months later at the end of last year and Foster would once again be carrying the bag this week.

There is a lot to be said for the idiom that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  Players at this level take an enormous risk when they decide to make significant changes to their swings.  In Westwood’s case, he may have thought that he was running out of time and chances to win his first Major Championship which is why he made the move to Foley.  By returning to Walker (and therefore Cowan’s methodology), he is going back to what he knows how to do; and trying to make it better.

Westwood’s win in Kuala Lumpur would be his 12th victory in Asia and his 36th on the European Tour.

Several oceans away, in her hometown of Honolulu in Hawaii, Michelle Wie came from 4 strokes behind on the final day to claim her 3rd LPGA tour win at Lotte Championship.  It was her first win since her victory at the CN Canadian Women’s Open in 2010.  Wie’s closing 5-under par, 67, gave her a four round total of 14-under par and a two stroke victory over 3rd round leader, Angela Stanford.

Now 24, Wie has of course been one of the most visible faces in golf since she was 12 years old.  Three wins by the time you are 24 is usually the harbinger of a great career, but for Wie, of whom so much has been expected, it is more vindication than acclimation.  Wie however, still has a great deal of time to prove the greatness that everyone predicted.

Much as with Westwood, Wie seems to be enjoying herself on the course more these days as witnessed by her comments after Saturday’s final round when she said “the highlight of this week was to come back home.  There wasn’t just one moment.  From the first tee shot that I made to the last putt, the aloha that I felt from everyone was unbelievable”.  While being the home town favorite and having the majority of the huge galleries pulling for you helps (it can also add to the pressure a player feels), Wie’s demeanor on the course has been brightening considerably for quite a few months.

And with that improved countenance has come better golf.  Wie’s gradual return to form began at our fantastic site, the Stockton Seaview Resort ( https://www.birdgolf.com/c-locations/new-jersey-golf-schools/ ), in last year’s ShopRite Classic which we wrote about in https://www.birdgolf.com/the-back-9-edition-2/ .

It was a positive and happy Wie who starred for the US Solheim Cup team last Fall in Colorado after being a surprise Captain’s selection by Captain Meg Mallon.  Many questioned that pick by Mallon, but Wie’s play that weekend was one of the few bright spots for the US team and more than justified her choice.  It may have also given Wie the confidence and impetus that her game had been lacking.

Wie finished 2nd two weeks ago at the Kraft Nabisco Championship to record her best finish in a Major Championship.  We documented that “writing on the wall” two weeks ago in our article https://www.birdgolf.com/the-back-9-edition-2/ .

Only time will tell whether Westwood will win the Major that his resume so richly deserves or if Wie fulfills the enormous potential that she has shown, but both players certainly took leaps in the right direction this weekend.