Lee Westwood is in familiar territory. In contention on the weekend at a major championship. After shooting a four-under 67, the 46-year-old is one shot back of the lead at the Open Championship. The crowning jewel event for European golfers.
But unlike previous appearances, Westwood has a unique individual carrying his bag. Helen Storey, Westwood’s girlfriend, opted to caddie for the Englishman instead of long-term partner Billy Foster.
The decision appears to be paying off for the former World No. 1. As he enters the twilight of his career, having a trustworthy caddie is important for Westwood. The search for that elusive first major championship continues.
And who better to share it with than a significant other.
The Perfect Bond Between Storey and Westwood
There is no more vital partnership in golf than between a golfer and caddie. The two walk in stride along the slopes of a course. The give and take is apparent as each component shares knowledge and information. But ultimately, the decision rests on the golfer on what shot to hit.
We have seen two opposite personalities succeed, such as Jordan Spieth and Michael Greller. A caddie can fuel a golfer’s intensity, like Steve Williams did for Tiger Woods during his historic run. And sometimes, it can be the powerful bond of family that brings a golfer and caddie in unison, evidenced when Jack Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters, with his son on the bag.
Lee Westwood and Helen Storey have shown they can work well together because their conversations on the course don’t solely focus on golf. It revolves around the calming topics that can help Westwood garner mental strength in the midst of a difficult round.
“You’d be surprised the sort of things we talk about out there,” stated Westwood after his second round. “The favourite one was from Denmark the first week she caddied for me and I took out a divot because it was big and soft and she’s walking back with the divot. I said: ‘What’s wrong?’ She said: ‘I hope there’s not a worm in this.’ It makes me smile. It’s a big advantage.”
Storey has been caddying for Westwood since last year. This week at Royal Portrush is her first experience at a major championship. An amphitheater that Lee knows far too well. In his over 20 years of professional golf, Westwood has won 43 times. He has represented Europe zealously at the Ryder Cup.
But capturing a major championship has escaped the Englishman throughout his career. With 18 Top 10’s and three runner up finishes, Westwood has embraced the painful reality of falling short with grace and class. In many of those majors, lapses in mental judgment and execution, particularly the putting, prevented the experienced golfer from getting over the hurdle to victory.
Lee Westwood Embracing Opportunity at Open Championship
Evidenced with his 67 and 68 in the opening two rounds, Westwood appears to be benefiting from having Storey on the bag. Being in the effective head space enables Westwood to play his best. Storey is critical in allowing this to occur.
“Obviously I get on well with Helen,” added the former world No 1. “She doesn’t know too much about golf but she knows a lot about the way my mind works. So she keeps me in a good frame of mind and focusing on the right things at the right time.”
For the tournament, Westwood has converted 64 percent of fairways hit, 78 percent greens in regulation with 1.58 average putts per hole. In all three categories, the Englishman is below the field average, demonstrating the flashes of brilliance that the golf world witnessed in his youth.
Having girlfriend Helen Storey on the bag has opened a new landscape of opportunities for Westwood. Most important being playing without pressure, an instinct necessary for success come the weekend at major championships.
“There’s no pressure on me,” Westwood said. “I just go out there and have fun. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Go home and have dinner, go on holiday the next week. Do the same things, life won’t change.”