Westwood remains calm despite slow start to season and loss of No. 1 rank

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Lee Westwood wasn't concerned that he lost the world No. 1 ranking last week because, he says, he has always been a slow starter when it comes to the annual golf season.
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PA Sport and Associated Press

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With the Masters only a month away, deposed world No. 1 Lee Westwood insists he is not in a state of panic.

Far from it, in fact, as he plays the Honda Classic this week.

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2011 HONDA CLASSIC

The back nine on the Champion Course at PGA National features "the Bear Trap," a three-hole stretch beginning at No. 15 that traditionally ranks among the toughest stretches on the PGA Tour.

"I'm hitting the ball as good as I've hit it for a long time," said Westwood, who could take the top spot back off the resting Martin Kaymer with a top-3 finish on Sunday.

The English star has still to record his first top-10 finish after four events so far in 2011, and last week failed to make it past the second round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship for the 11th successive time.

"I played quite nicely, but it's quite a difficult tournament to give an honest review and reflection on,” he said. “My game's in good shape.

"I'm not too worried about the No. 1 spot -- I'm never too fast out of the blocks at the beginning of the year,” he added. "It's one of those things. That's how I am."

Westwood is allowed only a limited number of PGA Tour starts after deciding once again not to take up membership, but despite his early exit in Arizona this week's event fit into his schedule because there is another World Golf Championship in Miami next week.

"I enjoyed it last year (he finished ninth) and that's the reason I've come back,” he said of the Honda Classic. “It's a great warm-up for next week and it makes a lot of sense to play."

Westwood did not study the world ranking table this week to check where he stood in relation to Kaymer and the players immediately below him.

"I tend to look when I'm going up,” he said. “I couldn't tell you how far I am in front of third (last week's winner Luke Donald) or how far I'm behind Martin."

As for relinquishing the No. 1 spot, which he had held since the end of October, he added: "Some things I enjoyed and some things I didn't, but there were more good points than bad, for sure. If you are going to practice hard to get to No. 1, you might as well enjoy it while you are there, otherwise there is no point practicing hard."

He suspects Kaymer will quickly discover, however, that there are far more demands on the time of the man at the top of the list.

Westwood knows about slumps, too, having slipped to No. 253 in 2003. He recalled a favorite adage when talking about Tiger Woods, one that his friend Darren Clarke once said about Westwood.

“Having played with Tiger since 1997 … there’s an old saying that class is permanent and form is fickle,” Westwood said. “He’s the classiest player I’ve ever played with. I’d be wise enough to know not to write him off.”

There has been chatter that Woods should try to play more tournaments to help get his game on track, especially after losing in the first round a week ago at the Accenture Match Play.

Westwood had some perspective on that, too.

“When I went through a bad patch, it was a juggling act whether to stay home and practice or go play and risk not playing well and taking another confidence knock,” he said. “It’s very much up to the individual. Tiger has to do what he feels is right.”