• PGA Tour

Westwood eyes major after US move

Bob Harig, ESPN.com
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Lee Westwood is planning for a full campaign on the PGA Tour this year © Getty Images
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The move is complete, the family has settled in to a swank golf community in South Florida and the task of concentrating on his golf game as he approaches his 40th birthday is in full force.

Lee Westwood packed up the wife and kids and relocated to Florida from his beloved hometown of Worksop, England, a relatively easy decision, although one he wishes he'd made years ago.

"It wasn't a tough sell," Westwood said. "Do you want to go and live by the sea and the sun by the beach? It was a pretty quick take-up."

Westwood said this with a chuckle, as if it is obvious. The cold and dreariness of an English winter versus sunny Florida? But in truth, it couldn't have been that simple. Westwood has lived in England his entire life and chose to pursue his golf career from there, for good or bad. There were friends and family, grandparents, roots.

Westwood has done quite well with the UK as his base, with 35 international victories, including 22 on the European Tour and two on the PGA Tour.

And yet, it is the elusive major championship that propels him at this point, next month's Masters the next opportunity.

"It was a combination of things really," Westwood said. "I've been looking to move for a couple of years. Just getting frustrated with the weather in the winters in England, not being able to work as hard as I would like, coming out at the start of the year really feeling too rusty.

"It's nice to have a rest, but it's nice to tick over, as well. That was basically it. I wanted to come and live in the sunshine."

Westwood moved to the Old Palm community in West Palm Beach, Florida, and has already raved about the ability to practice throughout the winter and tee it up with a slew of tour players who now live in the area. The family - Westwood and his wife, Laurae, have a son, Sam (12), and a daughter, Poppy (9) - relocated in early December.

The truth is, nearly every top player in the world rankings has a US base. With three of the four major championships in America and with Westwood taking up PGA Tour membership as well, it makes sense for Westwood from a travel and practice standpoint.

And playing the European Tour doesn't necessarily mean playing in Europe. Westwood started this year playing in the Middle East at Dubai. He'll sprinkle in some events in Asia, especially at the end of the year. Very few events he plays are actually contested in Europe, near his home in England. That means not leaving tournaments on Sunday night to get home and not being able to leave to get there on Tuesday or even Wednesday.

"Those extra two days are huge," he said. "I expect to feel better this year because of less travel and less going through time zones. I found that the older you get, the harder it is to sort of get your head around that, really. It becomes frustrating to play a couple of weeks and then have to fly back to England and go through the time zones, and then come back and do it all over again. It just wears you down after a while. That was one of the main reasons for moving."

He went to No. 1 in the world in late 2010 and bounced around the top three spots for the better part of two years. Westwood has since slipped to 11th, and his last victory came in the summer at the Nordea Masters.

Westwood has admitted that perhaps he should have made the move to the States 15 years ago, after he won his first PGA Tour title in New Orleans. That gave him automatic PGA Tour membership, and he has wondered if things might be different if he based himself over here back then.

Although he had great success on the European Tour - and bounced back from a slump that saw him drop out of the top 200 in the world - he has yet to win a major championship, despite a strong record.

Westwood has 14 top-10s in majors, including six in the past 12. During that time, he has been in the top three on four occasions. At Augusta National, he has not been out of the top 11 in the past four years, giving Phil Mickelson a strong run for the title in 2010.

Westwood and Fred Couples (who is 53) are the only players to finish among the top 15 at the Masters in each of the past three years. His average finish in that time is 5.3, the best of any player to make the cut.

Of course, that is of little consolation without the green jacket, although Westwood believes there is plenty more time even though he turns 40 in late April.

"I feel fitter now than I did when I was 30, so that's a good start," he said. "If you ask my trainer, he would probably say I'm stronger and fitter. I think part of the key is retaining the enthusiasm to keep going out and practicing, keep traveling the world. I've got two kids, so, you know, obviously it gets harder to be away.

"But there's no problem with that at the moment. I'm keen to keep going out on the range. I enjoy practicing and working out. Hopefully, I will win one major before I'm 40 and win some more when I'm in my 40s. You look at Vijay Singh's career, he's been very successful after the age of 40."

This article first appeared on ESPN.com

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