What would have been a week off for Lee Westwood, until he won the Dunhill Links Championship on Sunday, has turned into a chance to continue his remarkable return to form at the AmEx World Championship. The 30-year-old from Worksop had not contemplated playing in the £4m event before the last month in which he has won twice. "I don't think there is an exemption category if you are 240th in the world," he said.
Westwood has shot up to 61st on the world rankings but it was his fourth place on the European order of merit, after pocketing the £490,000 cheque on Sunday, that gave him entry to the élite 72-man field. Ironically, his friend from Worksop, Mark Foster, who is ranked 234th in the world, is here from the South African Order of Merit after his efforts in the co-sanctioned events at the start of the year.
"I'm crawling my way back up as quickly as I fell off," Westwood said. "It is nice to be back in these events with a high-quality field. The main thing is I'm enjoying my golf again." If he can get back into the world's top 50, he will be back in all the majors and World Golf Championship events. This season he missed the Masters and the US Open, plus the Accenture World Match Play. He only got into the USPGA after a personal invitation from the president of the PGA of America at a dinner at Sandwich and into the NEC World Invitational due to the Ryder Cup place for which he qualified in 2001.
"It has been a massive surprise to win twice so quickly but I never lost the belief that if I would get into contention I would win again," Westwood said. "I did a swing sequence for a golf magazine eight weeks ago and it was, 'why is Lee Westwood playing badly?' We did it again yesterday and it was, 'why he is playing well again?'"
All four of the World Championships, including the World Cup, are in the States this year, with the AmEx, which next year will return to Mount Juliet in Ireland, where Tiger Woods won last year, moving to a new layout that is only two years old. The Crabapple course at the Capital City Club, in the Woodstock suburb of Atlanta, has greens that are as hard and fast as another course in Georgia over at Augusta.
Woods, with yet another new driver to try and rectify his 148th ranking regarding fairways hit, is playing for the first time in a month and trying to win for the first time since the start of July.
Darren Clarke will be trying to match Woods as the only man to complete the set of individual WGC titles, having won the World Match Play in 2000 and the NEC last month.
The latter victory gave the Irishman a good chance of qualifying for the US Tour Championship to be held next month in Houston, which would meaning missing the Seve Trophy in Spain the same week.
To help secure his place, Clarke entered the Las Vegas Invitational which takes place next week. His coach, Butch Harmon, is based there but that is not the only reason Clarke knows the place. "I like it there," he said. Told the event was a five-say affair with three rounds in the company of amateurs, he replied: "I'll still enjoy myself in Vegas."Reuse content