Lee Westwood will today play a full round for the first time since limping to the treatment table with a ruptured calf muscle seven weeks ago and heaping doubt upon the Europe Ryder Cup challenge in the process.
Yet far from being a fitness check for the biennial tussle – which begins at Celtic Manor in two weeks' time – the 18 holes at his home club will be just another step along a carefully choreographed rehabilitation process which Westwood is certain will lead to him teeing it up in his seventh consecutive match against the US.
"I haven't had any pain for three weeks," said the 37-year-old. "I've made great progress. I'm pretty strong at the moment. I'd be fine playing in all five matches."
Westwood's words put paid to any faint hopes Paul Casey might have had of obtaining a place in Colin Montgomerie's side. As soon as the Scot overlooked Casey for his three wild cards it was understood that should anybody pull out injured then the captain would have another pick. Not only is Westwood sure this will not be necessary, but he also believes he could turn up in Newport in top form.
"I've been working with my coach, Pete Cowen, and he says I'm swinging it better than I was before," said Westwood who was forced to withdraw at the halfway stage of the Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio at the start of last month. "I haven't had a drink in four weeks and have lost 12lb since the Open."
Under the guidance of his fitness trainer, Steve McGregor, Westwood has embarked on a strict regime which has guarded against his natural instinct to rush a comeback. He has spent hours in the gym and began short-game practice a fortnight ago. Only this week has he been allowed to play full shots and after a few rounds this week he will head to Scotland for a two-day charity event next Monday and Tuesday. Then on Friday, three days before Montgomerie's team officially convene, he plans to play 36 holes at Worksop Golf Club. "I just want to replicate the Ryder Cup with two matches in one day," Westwood told the Golf Channel.
The world No 3's confidence will be music to the ears of Montgomerie, who must have been worried about his highest ranked player. He will also have been pleased to hear Westwood's ringing endorsement of his choice of Sergio Garcia as a fourth vice-captain. "I think it's a great move," he said. "Sergio brings a lot of passion and experience. And it's nice to have an assistant with each match. That's one of the few mistakes that Nick [Faldo]made at Valhalla – not having enough assistants to relay messages."Reuse content