'Lumpy' Lee Westwood sheds nearly two stone for Ryder Cup

 

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The Independent Online

You had only to witness the sleek profile of a hitherto lumpy Lee Westwood racing up the hill to the scorers hut at the Wales Open to realise something was up. It wasn’t the opening two-over-par 73 at Celtic Manor that loosened the loins. No, that would be the anticipation of a ninth Ryder Cup appearance at Gleneagles next week.

Westwood has not been in the best of form. The career trajectory since moving to the United States two seasons ago to take up membership of the PGA Tour has unravelled. He needed a pick to make this squad, but there is something in the Celtic air that tells him a turning point is nigh.

The transformative powers of the Ryder Cup brought Sergio Garcia back to golfing life as a vice captain four years ago and in 2012 holing the winning putt at Medinah flicked a switch in the ailing psyche of Martin Kaymer. A decade previously Westwood was the beneficiary of a Ryder Cup reboot, his exposure to Garcia for a week launching him back up the world rankings.

 

“Sergio helped me a lot in 2002. He was the perfect partner for me. It gave my career a kick-start. This could be the same. Anytime you play well under pressure, and next week will be the most intense pressure you will ever experience, it makes a difference. Look at Kaymer in 2012 it definitely kicked him back into gear.”

Westwood looks the part, back to his cruiserweight best at 13 stone, a reduction in the past six weeks of 23lbs. “I started (training regime) before I was picked. I needed to get back into shape, be more professional again. I have had things on my mind these past 18 months, moving the family over to the States, stuff like that.

“It is such an easy way of life, too, you can easily switch off. Maybe your rhythm gets disrupted. You might not feel it happening but I think there is a little bit of that. It takes some time to adjust to get back to the things you did when you were at your best. In that sense I’m motivated to get back to that.

“I maybe played a little too much as well, not taken enough breaks. So this three weeks off after not qualifying for the Fed-Ex Cup later stages has done me good. I’ve got away from it a bit and refocused. I think my game has improved over the period. My short game is certainly better.

“I’m able to practice that a lot more, I’m making more putts, third I think on the PGA Tour between 10 and 20 feet. I just have to start giving myself more opportunities for birdies. It would be nice to roll a few of them in next week, make a few daggers.”

Westwood has been involved in a record six winning teams and is only four points adrift of Sir Nick Faldo’s all-time haul of 25 Ryder Cup points. He’d love to walk into the sunset with that distinction, but not, you suspect, at the expense of a seventh team success.

“It’s not all me. I’ve had a bit of input and I’ve been lucky to play on recent teams when European golf has been really strong. I’ve been on two losing teams and it’s not as pleasurable as if you win. But that’s what makes the Ryder Cup great. It’s so dramatic and it is basically black or white. You win or you lose and it can come down to small margins.”

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