Torrance's chance to view Westwood

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The Independent Online

Sam Torrance will be able to check for himself this week where Lee Westwood stands both in fitness and form as the Ryder Cup draws ever nearer.

Concern over Westwood not having won all this year paled into insignificance two weeks ago when he had to pull out of the NEC World Championship in Ohio with a wrist injury.

When ligament damage was diagnosed at first there was real anxiety over whether he would even be at The Belfry for the match on 28-30 September. But a Sheffield specialist changed that to repetitive strain injury and, after a week's rest, Westwood is back in action at the European Masters starting here today.

The only other member of Europe's team in the field is Dane Thomas Bjorn, and captain Torrance is sandwiched between them in the draw for the first two rounds.

"No problems with the wrist, it's fine," said Westwood as he wrapped up against the cold and rain on the 1500-metre high Crans-sur-Sierre course.

As for having no victories to shout about so far in his defence of the European No 1 crown, the 28-year-old from Worksop added: "Even though I won seven times last year it is not a foregone conclusion you are going to win the following year.

"Maybe if I had played as well as I played in Sweden a few weeks ago (he finished second behind Colin Montgomerie) it might have turned into a win, but it is always difficult when you haven't won for a while. But it is not something that bothers me. I've had my share of wins over the past few years and it's nice to get out of the limelight for a while.

"It's not fun to be the centre of attention all the time. It would be nice to win before the year is finished, but I've got longer-term goals. It is more about the next 12 years."

The Ryder Cup now looms very large on the horizon, of course, especially with the next major not until next April and the US Masters.

"Once I'd won the Order of Merit I don't suppose I set any goals other than to play well in the majors," added Westwood. "I didn't play in the Masters this year [his wife Laurae was about to give birth], then I wasn't playing well going into the US Open."

That, of course, left only the Open and USPGA and finishes of 47th and 44th have contributed to send Westwood down to 16th in the world rankings after ending last year at fifth.

He and Bjorn are both entered for the American Express World Championship in St Louis next week, but neither is happy about the timing of the event. They were in the United States only two weeks ago and Westwood said: "If the Ryder Cup were in America you wouldn't see them coming over a couple of times beforehand." He is still not committing himself fully. "At the moment I am planning on going."

Bjorn feels the same and stated: "We shouldn't be going. All the travelling takes a lot out of you and the Ryder Cup is unquestionably the toughest tournament to play in the world."

Apart from the cup pair, the presence of Ernie Els, Nick Faldo and Craig Stadler in Switzerland gives the event some added glitter. South African Els, the world No 4, is also searching for his first victory of the year, while Faldo will be trying to make his presence felt after falling out of the Ryder Cup picture.

The 44-year-old knew the chance was there after he came third in the Volvo PGA championship at Wentworth in May, but played in only four more counting events and did not manage a top 40 finish in any of them.

Els, who has been working for the past month with sports psychologist Jos Vanstiphout in a bid to change his fortunes, said: "I look pretty calm, but inside I've got goals and when I don't get there I get pretty agitated, irritated with myself and my game.

"So although I try to keep calm, I wasn't calm inside, fighting with myself a little bit, so I started talking with Jos a little bit and I like what he says. I am not totally where I want to be but I'm on my way back."

The former Masters champion Stadler is now 48 and had his last win in 1996. But so did John Daly when he triumphed in Munich last week.

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