Nearly men Fleetwood, Westwood hope for Masters magic

Augusta (United States) (AFP) –


Tommy Fleetwood was playing shots from everywhere in Monday's practice round at the Masters while 47-year-old Lee Westwood was vowing there's no age barrier to winning at Augusta National.

The Englishmen know well the agony of major near misses, with 16th-ranked Fleetwood finishing second in the 2018 US Open and 2019 British Open, while Westwood has 19 major top-10 finishes without a victory.

Fleetwood was flinging caution to the wind and testing lies and angles where he might be attacking the green when the 84th Masters begins Thursday.

"This week more than pretty much any other week or golf course, being out on the course is so important," said 29-year-old Fleetwood.

"You can never learn enough around here. There's always something new. There's always like a little snippet somewhere you hear. Experience around this course plays the best."

Rain is in the forecast for the week at Augusta National, making Fleetwood work to see about shots he might never need, or might need when he least expects it.

"You just want to keep playing different shots and see how the ball reacts and what kind of lies you get and just how the course is playing," Fleetwood said.

"A lot of things can change very rapidly. They think that they can do some kind of magic and change the course as much as they want. But around the greens it has played a little bit different.

"You always have to try and conjure up something and make shots into the back. You keep playing and keep figuring it out as you go along."

That's what Westwood has been doing for decades and it has produced a stellar career with 25 European Tour wins and two more on the US PGA.

But when it comes to majors, the former world number one has come up empty, 10 top-four finishes without a major victory, two of his three career runner-up efforts coming at Augusta in 2010 and 2016.

"Experience counts a lot around here," Westwood said. "I've placed second a couple of times and quite a lot (six) of top-10s, so there's definitely a knack for playing this course."

And while he would become the oldest winner in Masters history, passing Jack Nicklaus at age 46 in 1986, he doesn't see Father Time as the biggest onstacle at the Masters.

"I don't think age is a barrier as long as you've still got all the attributes it takes to win at Augusta," Westwood said. "It does play into the longer hits. But there's no age barrier to doing what you need to do to win at Augusta."

Westwood isn't going to follow Fleetwood's practice studies.

"You can play as many practice rounds as you want," Westwood said. "But it's only until the tournament starts that you start to learn more about the golf course."

Westwood finished fourth at last year's British Open, earning him a spot in this year's Masters field, his 19th Augusta National appearance.

"Been excited for about a year now," Westwood said. "It's nice to be back playing in this tournament. It's my favorite tournament to play in."