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Golf: Nearly man Westwood seeks major breakthrough at PGA

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Lee Westwood, coming off his eighth top-three finish in a major without tasting victory, seeks a breakthrough at the PGA Championship with the help of sports psychologist.

The 40-year-old Englishman makes his 63rd major start on Thursday at Oak Hill Country Club just three weeks after leading in the final round of the British Open before settling for a share of third at Muirfield.

"I've been hitting the ball pretty solidly," Westwood said. "Played nicely tee to green last week. Certainly better than even the week before at the Open so it's all coming together and it's a good time to start playing well."

Westwood has 16 top-10 results in majors, including a share of eighth at this year's Masters, and shared 15th at the US Open in June. He missed the cut at the 2003 PGA, also played at Oak Hill, with his only top-three effort in the event being a share of third in 2009.

Westwood has sought help in quest of his first major triumph, talking before this week with sports psychologist Ross Mackenzie, using top-ranked Tiger Woods' swing coach Sean Foley and bringing in Ian Baker-Finch for advice on putting. Westwood can see the benefits already.

"The main reason for finishing third at the Open was that I putted so well. That's the first time I've putted well in I don't know how long," Westwood said. "It seems to be what everybody else does every week, so that's a level of consistency that I've got to try to get to on the greens.

"I've been making a lot of changes and working on a lot of different things, so there's no surprise really that there was a significant difference."

And while he hungers to win, he has a new attitude about setting goals for a major week.

"You can't really go into tournaments with that as a goal. You're going to end up disappointed a lot really," said Westwood. "So the idea is to play the best you can, give yourself a chance on Sunday going into the back nine and just see what happens.

"Since 2008, I feel like I've contended every time I come to a major championship, and no matter what level my game is at, I can operate for that week. I feel like that's why I've probably contended in most of them."

Woods backs sports psychology as well.

"I used to use a sports psychologist when I was younger. It does help," Woods said. "Whatever it takes to become a better player and to shoot lower scores, you have to try and explore that.

"You can learn a lot from sportsd psychologists, no doubt, but ultimate (it's about) what's going to work on the back nine of Sundays to win tournaments."

Westwood takes no extra hope from the fact that there have been 14 first-time winners in the past 20 majors.

"I don't really think it helps that much," Westwood said. "I don't really analyze other people's games or results or things like that. I just try to concentrate on my own and get my own house in order.

"It shows the depth and strength of golf at the moment. There are a lot of good players and major championships are probably harder to win than they ever have been."

js/cw

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130806/golf-nearly-man-westwood-seeks-major-breakthrough-at-pga