JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Lee Westwood is trying as hard as ever to win a major, the missing piece to what has turned into a stellar career.
His goal at the PGA Championship is not to try so hard.
"I've done all the hard work now, done it for 20 years," Westwood said Tuesday. "It's time to relax and let it flow."
He comes to Atlanta Athletic Club at No. 2 in the world behind Luke Donald. Not many would dispute that Westwood is No. 1 when it comes to wearing the label as best to have never won a major.
"It's good to be the best at something, I suppose," he said.
Westwood had putts on the final hole of the 2008 U.S. Open and 2009 British Open to get into a playoff. He had the lead going into the final round of the 2010 Masters. The attention on Westwood without a major only got greater when his best friend, Darren Clarke, won the British Open last month at Royal St. George's.
That makes four of the last five majors for players who are represented by Chubby Chandler at International Sports Management. Who could have believed that group would not include Westwood?
Westwood said he would treat this week just like any other, no matter the size of the Wanamaker Trophy.
"It's four rounds of golf, same as the Indonesian Masters," Westwood said, alluding to the Asian Tour event he won in May to briefly return to No. 1 in the world.
Now, he appears to be paying attention to what is working for his stable mates.
Westwood recently started working on his putting with Dave Stockton, the two-time PGA champion considered to be among the best when it comes to teaching the most important part of the game. More surprising is that Westwood, who has been suspicious of what sports psychologists have to offer, is now spending time with Bob Rotella.
Rory McIlroy started working with Stockton in May, a month before his record-setting win in the U.S. Open at Congressional. Clarke, who had fallen out of the top 100 in the world, began working again with Rotella before the British Open.
Might it work for Westwood?
"I've ticked pretty much every other box, and it's got me to a very high level," Westwood said. "To get to No. 1 in the world (he has been there longer than anyone this year), you have to be doing most things right. Putting would be the top of the priority list with regard to room for improvement."
Stockton's advice on putting mirrors the attitude that Westwood is taking into the PGA Championship, the final major of the year that starts Thursday. It's also one that has worked so many years for Brad Faxon, regarded as among the best.
Putt like you don't care.
"You'll see a routine that I'm comfortable with," Westwood said. "But you'll see me not trying."
As for the mental side?
"Lee is trying to get the best out of himself that he possibly can," Clarke said. "And obviously, with people — especially from the same stable — winning majors all around him, it's an avenue he has not explored in the past. And certainly working with Dr. Bob can't do any harm."
Westwood wanted to be more lighthearted this week, and that much became clear almost immediately. He was introduced in his press conference as No. 2 in the world, playing in his 14th PGA Championship, having tied for third in the PGA two years ago and tying for 44th at Atlanta Athletic Club in 2001.
"I made the cut?" Westwood said. "Check on that. Let's have a look. I don't think I made any cuts in 2001."
He had the moderator, Kelly Elbin, get out the PGA record book and thumb back 10 years. Sure enough, Westwood tied for 44th, with a pair of 68s in the middle rounds. Westwood then looked up at the audience and spoke like he knew it all along.
"I played nicely in 2001 and shot a couple of 68s, really loved the course and happy to be back," he said.
Talking about his fitness routine, which relies on powerlifting, Westwood said he recently deadlifted 354 pounds.
"A Chubby and a quarter," he said, referring to his burly agent.
And what about Chandler going for a Grand Slam? The question referred to his clients winning the Masters (Charl Schwartzel), U.S. Open (McIlroy) and British Open (Clarke). Westwood jokingly went literal with it.
"I'm not impressed with his preparation," he said. "He doesn't function well in the heat. He drinks a lot, but not water, unless you count tonic water."
Westwood, of course, is not the only player desperate to win a major.
Now that Tiger Woods has been in a slump, on and off the golf course, the majors have been more open to all. Twelve players have won the last 12 majors. There hasn't been a streak that long in seven years.
So open is golf at the moment that only six of the top 20 players in the world have won majors.
Jason Day was a runner-up in the first two majors. Adam Scott is coming off a World Golf Championship, his confidence boosted by having Woods' ex-caddie, and by a long putter that has done wonders for the one weakness in his game.
Dustin Johnson was a runner-up at Royal St. George's, and he looks talented enough to have won three majors by now. He blew the U.S. Open last year with an 82 in the last round, and was knocked out of a playoff at the PGA Championship when he didn't realize he was in a bunker at Whistling Straits.
But if anyone should expect to contend this week, it starts at the top — not just Westwood, but Donald.
After a tie for fourth in the Masters, Donald has vanished in the other two majors this summer. Even so, his golf remains at such a high level that his lead atop the ranking is increasing. With a runner-up finish last week at a World Golf Championship, he became the first person since Woods more than a year ago whose ranking average was higher than 10.
He understands what Westwood is feeling, because Donald feels it himself. They are the only two players to be No. 1 in the world without ever having won a major.
"There's more pressure," Donald said. "You feel a little more uptight, and sometimes it's harder to let it go and just kind of play the way you know how to play. But it's very hard. There's a hard balance between not trying and obviously putting in some effort to give it your best."