EXCLUSIVE: Johnstone tells Golfmagic how he

Andy Roberts's picture
Andy Roberts
Thu, 23 Aug 2012

EXCLUSIVE: Johnstone tells Golfmagic how he

Don’t always believe everything you read. Tony Johnstone is helping Lee Westwood on his short game – but it’s just a bit of friendly advice.

For now.

“The media have kind of blown it a bit out of proportion,” he tells me. And despite talking on the phone it’s obvious there’s a smile on his face. “I am just helping him out at the moment.”

Just hours after learning Westwood had fired his swing coach Pete Cowen and temporary caddie Mike Kerr, the Zimbabwean received a call from the Englishman’s management company ISM during the PGA Championship.

As part of a five-day trial, the short game expert jumped on a plane to meet Westwood at The Bear’s Club in Jupiter last Friday before moving onto New York ahead of this week’s opening event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs at The Barclays.

So what’s Westwood like as a pupil?

“He is just so easy to work with and it has been an absolute joy to spend time with him for the last five days,” says Johnstone, barely skipping a beat. “I have always been a massive fan of his. The guy is just an enormous talent.”

The 56-year-old, who has already proved an instant hit as short game coach by helping Robert Rock and Chris Wood claim maiden professional titles this season, explained the newest player in his stable was looking for a simple method that would improve his chipping.

“I gave Lee a go-too chipping method from within 30 yards that he can get into,” adds the six-time European Tour champion, before turning statistician.

“Westwood is currently ranked 193rd on Tour in scrambling, and we wanted to work on those fiddly shots around the green that he often struggles with. If anything, his problems in the past have been more of a visualisation thing and that’s something we have been working on. His mechanics are sound.

“We worked on a solid, repetitive stroke that he can use 90% of the time on the course. That was our sole goal; one concrete idea and just keep it simple.

“Within 15 minutes, the stuff we talked about fell straight into place. We both saw immediate results. He has adapted very well. I actually wondered what we were going to do for the rest of the five days.”

Westwood may have finished his last five events over par and slipped down to World No.4, but Johnstone believes we’ll see vastly improved results when his short game revisions come to fruition.

“His putting really isn’t as bad as some people make out. If I had one criticism, it’s that he tends to lack a bit of pace and he dies the ball towards the hole. When putts don’t drop, it can creep into the rest of the game, which has been the case recently.

“But he isn’t a bad putter. He has worked with the best tutors in the world, such as Dave Stockton. His putting is hot and cold and that’s a lot better than being luke warm.

“It’s his chipping that has let him down in the past. In major championships, you are going to miss greens even with Westy’s ability from tee to green.

“He is too good a player to not win a major. The short game is the only department that has held him back, but he is working very hard on it.

“I am not worried about his form right now. Tee to green he’s simply incredible. He is probably the best ball striker I’ve ever seen, alongside Tom Watson, Greg Norman and Nick Price.

“If he can put the short game work I’ve given him into use, and a few putts start to drop, then he is going to be a hard man to beat just about every week he tees it up.”

So can we expect to see the Westwood-Johnstone partnership take the world by storm?

“We are just going to take it from here and see how it goes. The ball is in his court. I will keep taking the odd look at him to make sure he is happy with what we are working on.”

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