Compaq Classic of New Orleans
Compaq Classic of New Orleans
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Westwood's game matches Duval's in sizzle

David Duval isn't the only golfer to win 11 titles in the last 35 starts. Lee Westwood has matched Duval's victory total, and this week he looks to defend the only PGA title in that fabulous string.

Westwood, however, withdrew from Wednesday's pro am with what a tournament official described as "problems with his right shoulder."

Westwood experienced a "twinge" in that shoulder last November during the Hong Kong Open. He had a similar twinge Wednesday on the driving range and, after a visit to the medical trailer, decided to rest Wednesday.

Like Duval, Westwood won three tournaments at the end of 1997, seven in 1998, and one this year. He had 13 top-10 finishes around the world in 1998, including four victories in Europe. He's also won in Asia and Australia, and two weeks ago won a title in Macao.

"Look at all the great players," Westwood said. ``Most have won all over the world. Against different fields. On different golf courses. Under different conditions."

This week, shoulder permitting, Westwood has a chance to see how his game stacks up with Duval's in the $2.6 million Compaq Classic.

Duval, the world's top-ranked player, has won four of the 10 tournaments he's entered this year. He started with victories in the Mercedes and the Bob Hope.

After he lost in the second round of the Match Play Championship, Duval took three weeks off and returned to win The Players Championship and BellSouth Classic in consecutive weeks.

Although Westwood, who turned 26 last week, has matched Duval in victories, he's not well known in the United States, where his only title was last year in New Orleans. And Westwood said, his game is still not on a par with Duval's.

"I'd say I'd lose out around the greens," Westwood said. ``I'm not as good as David Duval at chipping or probably putting. But there might be something I do better than him. That's the way it's always going to be."

But if there are things about his game that Westwood would like to improve, the 1998 European PGA player of the year has no doubt he can do it.

"I don't envy anybody," he said.

Ranked sixth in the World Golf Rankings, Westwood is still the down-to-earth kid from blue collar Worksop, England, a mining and farming community. He married in January and bought a farmhouse and 50 acres just outside his hometown.

An intense competitor on the course, Westwood doesn't let his killer instinct interfere with his life off the course.

"Nobody bothers me too much," he said. ``What's not to handle? You either do or you don't."

Westwood won the tournament in New Orleans last year with four consecutive rounds in the 60s (69, 68, 67, 69), finishing 15-under-par on the tough 7,106 yards, par-72 English Turn course.

In addition to his ability to drive the ball and his accuracy, Westwood's composure on the course is what most of his peers comment on. Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal said that's Westwood's edge.

"It's his attitude, his ability to relax that sets him apart," Olazabal said. "He is long and straight, yes. But, when I look at Lee Westwood, I think of his composure. That impresses me most."

Westwood would like to add more U.S. titles to his collection. Duval and Westwood were tied for sixth in the Masters. That was Westwood's best finish in a major, bettering the seventh he had in the 1998 U.S. Open. He believes the U.S. victories will come as he refines his game.

One thing he isn't worrying about is his mental game.

"I'm not afraid of winning. I'm not afraid of losing," Westwood said. "It's only a game at the end of the day. It's not like war or anything like that. Some people treat it like that, which is the wrong attitude to have."