It is to Lee Westwood's credit that there has been no bigger critic of his infamously ropey short game than the man himself.
With the Masters now just a fortnight away, and Westwood's 40th birthday falling at the end of April, the Englishman has reflected candidly on his inability to claim a major title thus far in an otherwise successful career.
"Short game is vital in these major championships," Westwood explains. "That's what I have seen over the last few years. If I'd had a good short game, I would probably have been stood here with five major championships given the positions I got myself into. Hopefully over the next few I can start winning some.
"I think it gets highlighted most at the Masters. But then it gets highlighted at all of them. You do miss greens, there's more pressure in majors, especially in the final few rounds. The test is more stringent, the greens are firmer and the flags are cut nearer the edges and you have to have a better action."
Westwood, who has recently set up home in Florida with an eye towards ending that major problem, does not view age as a barrier to his aspirations. His good friend Darren Clarke supplied proof of that when winning the Open at 42. "I'm in better nick than I was when I was approaching 30," Westwood says. "I was weaker and carrying more weight then. I am fitter now."
Nor is Westwood perturbed by the fact that he has fallen outside the world's top 10. "It doesn't greatly bother me," he says. "We're all bunched together and I've obviously not played that great for the first part of the year. But it's not about the first part of the year, it's about a longer term thing and playing better in the majors.
"Obviously you have pride in rankings and stuff like that, but you reassess goals all the time. The rankings aren't something you can play towards, they're just something you get when you play well."
With Augusta on the horizon, though, Westwood describes the current state of his short game as "brilliant". He adds: "I'm not just getting up and down because I'm holing loads of seven- to 10-footers, I'm getting up and down because I'm chipping it to two feet a lot. My bunker play has been really, really good. In fact from 60 yards in it's been great."
New surroundings, and practice facilities literally in his Florida back garden, are key to that. "It's just constantly being able to work on it, I think," Westwood says. "My technique is so much better. And doing it myself helps. I can just go away to the chipping green and work on things."
That form has not as yet been endorsed in a slow start to the year that he is looking to turn around at this week's Shell Houston Open. "I just think there's been a lot going on, buying houses, trying to sell houses, getting the kids settled, getting me settled," Westwood adds. "I have actually been hitting the ball well but my concentration has been drifting away at the wrong times.
"I'm not even thinking about anything. It's all a bit cluttered up there. I'm not able to concentrate fully on the golf at the moment. It's not frustrating because I understand why its happening. I have never really had much going on in my life before. It has been a big upheaval. They say moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do; we lived in Worksop a long time and we tried to do the move fast. So it's bound to affect something somewhere."
Westwood can take heart from his recent Masters record. Since 2010 he has finished second, and tied for 11th and third. Last year he played the Sunday back nine in four-under par. It may be that the 39-year-old will rediscover his finest touch when returning to Georgia.
"I just seem to play tough courses well because I am strong tee to green and I get myself into a position to have a chance," he says. "I will get to Augusta on the Monday morning and get used to the course in three days. I think its easier when you've been there a lot. I'll play 18 on the Monday probably, then nine on Tuesday, nine on Wednesday then the par three competition. There's nothing wrong once I get focused and switched on. It's just like I'm floating in the clouds a lot of the time."
Cloud Nine would be an altogether better place. And the perfect 40th birthday present.
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image: © Steven Newton