Westwood looking to lead European team

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Lee Westwood returns to golf tomorrow "chest out, chin up" - and not thinking about his calf.

Europe's highest-ranked and most capped player, who in Scotland next week will have a chance to take the world number one spot off Tiger Woods, accepts he has a special role at the Ryder Cup.

Back from a seven-week injury lay-off just in time to play against the Americans for a seventh time, Westwood said today: "I think when push comes to shove if I get out there chest out, chin up I suppose I've got the most experience to try to show them how it's done.

"I'm going to try to win that first hole and try to win a point that first morning - if I'm playing, of course. I don't want to drop any hints.

"And I want to see 11 people stood there right behind me following me."

Westwood, interestingly paired with Rory McIlroy when Europe switched to foursomes for their final practice session, insists his leg is not a problem now.

That does not mean, though, that he will play all five sessions because captain Colin Montgomerie may decide not to put him through 36 holes tomorrow and Saturday on a course that is so physically demanding - even more so after all the rain.

"I get the odd twinge, but I think that's age more than anything," said the 37-year-old.

"Everybody gets twinges here and there. I get a twinge in my back every morning when I get up, but it doesn't mean I have a bad back.

"The calf is not really an issue for me. It's not something that's in the back of my mind - I can't hit this one flat out or anything like that.

"I'm going through the motions as I would if I were 100% fit, but I don't think I've ever been that."

Westwood, who two years ago equalled Arnold Palmer's 12-game unbeaten run in the match before losing a fourball with Soren Hansen, has been an ever-present since his 1997 debut at Valderrama.

"You have to know when to attack and when to defend. You learn how to do that and read the game," he said.

"You do it sub-consciously in the end. Sometimes pars are great and they are going to win you holes.

"There's a time to go across and put your arm around your partner and say 'middle of the green is not going to be bad here'.

"And nerves are great as long as you know how to handle them."

The par-five 18th over water could be a thrilling conclusion to matches this week and that will be the biggest test of a player's bottle.

"I don't know how to put it other than you have to take your balls in your hand," stated Westwood.

"Ideally I would have liked to have broken myself in gently in a tournament with 18 holes a day, but that wasn't possible.

"I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I could play five matches, but I think we've got a strong enough team in depth that maybe the plan would be to rest players.

"As much as I hate to admit it, I'm not as young as I used to be. There's a few more miles in my legs and maybe the best way to get the maximum out of me is to play me in four."

He does not think Montgomerie has put a foot wrong in the build-up and when asked about team spirit, he made a comment that will be taken as further criticism of Nick Faldo's captaincy in the defeat two years ago.

"I think there was a lot of passion at Valhalla. But I don't think it was directed or guided in the right direction at times.

"I think we could have pulled it together as a team a lot better."

He did not win a game there - and nor did Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia.