If Europe is ever to redress one of the game's more baffling anomalies and so win its first USPGA Championship since 1930, surely this will be the week at Oakland Hills. Not only is Tiger Woods absent but some powerful memories are present and as Lee Westwood said yesterday: "This is a game of confidence and we should all buoyed by what we did here in 2004."
Of course, what Bernhard Langer's team did here four years ago was inflict a record Ryder Cup defeat on the Americans, with a putting performance that reduced the treacherously undulating greens to spirit-level status. The powers-that-be have enlisted their criminally over-used bulldozers to alter this layout since then, but they will never be able to excavate just what those three days meant for European golf.
Westwood sensed it as soon as he pulled through these gates on Monday. "When I drove in it all came flooding back where everything was," he said, confessing that his main route had been to the bar on that famous Sunday evening. "And the course? Yeah, it's changed, with just the addition of a few new tees. But it's basically the same. You know, I played pretty good that week and I'm playing OK at the moment. So I hope to carry that form through."
Westwood is playing rather better than "Ok" as his runner-up finish at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Akron on Sunday confirmed. The display hauled him to 12th in the world and earned him the honour of being the highest-placed Briton for the first time in seven years.
After picking up a cheque for £350,000 Westwood hopped into his car with Darren Clarke – the Ulsterman who reacquainted himself with the big-time leaderboard with his own top 10 finish at Firestone – and the pair knew exactly where to celebrate in Detroit. It was the same Irish hostelry, Dick O'Dow's, where they had both danced on the bar in 2004.
They managed to remain on their stools this time, although should either prevail on Sunday the landlord had better relocate the French polish. Westwood fully understands the scandal of the drought that needs rectifying. "It is amazing no European has won the USPGA since Tommy Armour 78 years ago," he said. "Especially when you consider the strength we've had over the years. The likes of Faldo, Seve, Langer, Woosie, Monty..." Could Westwood succeed where those legends failed? "Well, if you look at my record when I get on a roll I tend to stay on it for a good while. This would be some place to start off the winning."
* Luke Donald, the Englishman who has been out for two months with a wrist injury, admitted yesterday that as well as missing the Ryder Cup, he may not even play again this year. "I will have to decide whether to go ahead with surgery next week," he said.Reuse content