England's Lee Westwood, left, is trying to become the oldest winner in Masters history with his son Sam, right, as caddie just as Jack Nicklaus set the age mark of 46 in 1986 with his son as his bagman
Augusta (United States) (AFP) - After turning back the clock with two impressive runner-up finishes in March, Lee Westwood hopes to become the oldest champion in Masters history and capture an elusive first major title.
And the 47-year-old Englishman will have his son as his caddie this week at Augusta National, just as Jack Nicklaus had his son Jackie on the bag when he became the oldest Masters winner at 46 in 1986.
“It would be great to break his record,” Westwood said. “To have a chance to break one of his records would be very special.”
Westwood, who claimed his third European Tour Race to Dubai crown last year, was second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and The Players Championship last month.
World number 20 Westwood was the 54-hole leader in both events, but finished a stroke behind Bryson DeChambeau at Bay Hill and one shot behind Justin Thomas at the Players.
“It just is validation, really, that I’m still good enough at my age to be out here and contending,” Westwood said.
“It’s amazing that I’m old enough to have my son on the bag and still be competing in these tournaments.”
Westwood’s 19-year-old son, Sam, will serve as his caddie this week. His girlfriend, Helen Storey, also serves as his caddie these days.
“Having Sam on the bag, it’s very special,” Westwood said. “Walking around out there with Sam is very special.”
Westwood has 84 career major starts without a victory, the most of any player in the field. He has 19 top-10 major finishes without a victory, his nearest misses being runner-up efforts at the 2010 and 2016 Masters and the 2010 British Open.
“Having played well here before, my confidence levels are high,” Westwood said. “Looking forward to having some fun out there.”
Westwood’s most recent triumph came last year at Abu Dhabi on the European Tour, where he has won 25 titles. His most recent US PGA triumph came at 2010 in Memphis.
“I maybe don’t play as well as often anymore, but when I do play well, I tend to contend,” Westwood said. “With the work I’ve done on the mental side of the game, I feel a lot more comfortable out there.”
Westwood says age brings more “mental scarring” but mental coaches have given him “tools to deal with that” in his 20th Masters start.
“When I do get into the heat of battle and close to the lead, I feel comfortable again. That’s a big part of it too,” Westwood said.
“The psychological part of the game is a massive part of the game now. It’s probably the biggest part of the game.”
- ‘In the lap of the gods’ -
If he takes the green jacket, Westwood, who turns 48 on April 24, would be the second-oldest winner of any major after American Julius Boros, who won the 1968 PGA Championship at 48.
“As for expectations, I don’t really have any,” Westwood said. “I just put the preparation in, hit it off the first tee and try and find it… after that, it’s in the lap of the gods, really.”
Westwood marvels at having played at Augusta since 1997.
“I still remember the first time I came here like it was yesterday,” Westwood said. “It’s such a special place, traditions, and you feel fortunate to drive down Magnolia Lane.
“It still sends chills down my spine to see Amen Corner in the distance. It’s a very special place.”
Westwood admits he’s still learning about the famed course, even picking the brains of Welshman Ian Woosnam, the 1991 champion, last weekend.
“You never know everything about the game of golf. You’re always learning, and even more so around Augusta,” said Westwood.
“There’s nowhere like Augusta. It’s unique. That’s what makes it great.”