Tiger is next in Westwood's sights
This weekend the Englishman can end Woods' six-year reign as the world's No 1 player
Thursday 07 October 2010
America will be able to cope without having the Ryder Cup – but without the world No 1 on their Tour? On another good day for Europe, Lee Westwood announced he will not be taking up his US card next year, even if he does supplant Tiger Woods here this week.
Second place in this Dunhill Links Championship on Sunday will see Westwood become the first Briton to hold top spot in the rankings since Nick Faldo in 1994 and the first human other than Tiger since Vijay Singh in 2004. It is an enticing prospect that could only possibly be downplayed by what came the weekend before.
Stories will continue to be told these next four days as celebrities share the fairways of St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns in this glorified pro-am. And with nine players of the triumphant European team in the $5m field the yarns have already entered the land of nostalgia. Westwood was in the media centre yesterday recounting how Amy Mickelson toasted him in table tennis at the after-match party. Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, explained how he just stood next to the ping-pong and shouted abuse. "Tiger and Phil were dusting everyone," he revealed. "I think they combine better as a table tennis team than a golf team."
McIlroy stressed he was joking (and he was wise to do so after all that Ryder Cup controversy about how he would "love to face" the struggling Woods) and went on to say how the Americans handled the "loss with class". Indeed, they did. But whether the PGA Tour will take Westwood's snub so graciously is doubtful. Not since Ian Woosnam back in 1991 has a world No 1 dared not to be a member of the self-avowed biggest tour in the world, but that would not bother Westwood. He has different priorities.
"The only reason I would be joining the US Tour would be for money," said the 37-year-old, before explaining how competing for the $10m play-off first prize would affect his family life. "The FedEx Cup sits right in the middle of the kids' summer holidays and I like going on holiday with them for a couple of weeks. I don't want to be dictated to and have to play in FedEx Cup when it doesn't mean that much to me."
As Westwood alluded, it is nigh on compulsory for US Tour members to play in the play-offs. Westwood admitted there had been "persuasion" from the American side, but this Iron Man is not for turning. Not when it would come to leaving his beloved Worksop. He said: "My kids live here, my family live here, my horses are trained here, I pay my taxes here, I receive my child benefit here... no hang on, that's gone."
With that he was off on his sardonic way, although interestingly not to play a practice round. Fatigue is an understandable concern this week, particularly as he had seven weeks on the sidelines before the Ryder Cup with a calf injury. It would be a monumental effort if he succeeded, but he does have form on this hallowed turf. "The last time I played properly competitively was at St Andrews when coming second in the Open," he said. "So I don't feel I've really been away."
Back in July, Graeme McDowell was a mere US Open champion. Now the Ulsterman is the hero of all Europe after securing the point which regained the Ryder Cup. With the exception of Colin Montgomerie, no man will be asked for his recollections more and yesterday he was extremely forthcoming. He almost declined his moment of immortality.
"After Monty announced the order for the singles and I was 12th he asked if everyone was comfortable with their position and I was on the verge of saying something," said McDowell. "I had a blank look on my face and Thomas Bjorn [the vice-captain] said to me 'G-Mac, are you OK?' Stupidly I didn't say anything. Well, it wasn't stupidly in the end."
McDowell was concerned "he wouldn't be part of the winning euphoria" as he expected Europe to have already won by the last match. History now knows different and so, too, does Montgomerie who manfully tried to put his experience into words yesterday. The Prime Minister has been in touch, as has the EU President, as have other "world leaders"; but rather pointedly Paul Casey hasn't.
Of course, Casey was the first eligible player from the world's top 10 ever to be overlooked for the Ryder Cup and for the first time, Montgomerie outlined how "horribly awful" the decision was and how he believes no captain should ever be placed in the same position again. Furthermore, he is determined to ensure no captain is.
"That Sunday at Gleneagles was the worst day of my professional career," said Monty, reflecting back on the night of his wildcard announcement. "Having to do that to my colleagues my peers, my friends... I shouldn't have to leave out top-10 players. I'm a member of the committee and the qualification system will come up in our meetings. I think you'll find there might be changes."
1. T Woods (US) 8.86pts
2. L Westwood (Eng) 8.55pts
3. P Mickelson (US) 8.43pts
4. S Stricker (US) 7.70pts
5. J Furyk (US) 7.49pts
6. M Kaymer (Ger) 7.15pts
7. P Casey (Eng) 6.28pts
8. L Donald (Eng) 5.84pts
9. R McIlroy (NI) 5.68pts
10. E Els (SA) 5.49pts
Westwood's record this year
Abu Dhabi Golf Championship MC
Qatar Masters T3
Dubai Desert Classic 2
Match Play Championship T17
Honda Classic T9
WGC CA Championship T30
Houston Open T8
Quail Hollow Championship T38
The Players Championship T4
PGA Championship T10
St Jude Classic 1
US Open T16
Open de France T18
The Open 2
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