Westwood revival perfectly timed for Ryder Cup push

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The Independent Online

When a struggling Ryder Cup hero eventually turns the corner he invariably finds someone there waiting for him demanding to know how he did it. An old putter found in the attic, maybe? Or what about a tip from a mystery man in the crowd?

Lee Westwood had a new variation on this oldest of themes yesterday: a downpour in Maryland. And if last week's return to form is anything to go by then his fortuitous route into next week's Open Championship at Hoylake has poured new life on a golfer who was in danger of wilting away.

"It was at Congressional a fortnight ago," explained the 33-year-old as he practised for this week's Scottish Open. "It was American qualifying for the Open with 12 out of about 120 getting through but as I had just missed the cut at the Booz Allen Classic, not to mention the six before that, I wasn't too confident, no.

"But then, it rained more than I've ever seen it rain and after two days they called it off and let those with the best world rankings through. That meant me. It was easier than having to play. It's funny because a bit of luck like that can change the way you think about things. All of a sudden, when everything is going against you, it can flip around and start going for you. Maybe that was all I needed."

It certainly seems so, because after displaying glimpses of the old Westwood at France later that week, the full unexpurgated version was again on view at the European Open last weekend as he finished in a rush for a tie for fourth. "It was just a case of taking what I've been working on with my coach, Pete Cowen, on to the course," he said. "That's been the hardest thing. Last Saturday and Sunday was as well as I've hit the ball in a long time."

Timing is everything in golf and it was not lost on many that Westwood's resurgence came at the venue for September's biennial tear-up. Tom Lehman was well aware of the significance.

"I played with Lee on the final day and he was great," said the American captain. "He really impressed me. My perception was that he started the round less than confident and then as it progressed I could see his chest swell and swell. It was nice to see him suddenly say, 'hey, I can actually do this' because he's some player."

As Lehman conceded it may not be quite as simple as all that, and with other "certainties" not currently occupying automatic positions in the qualification charts - Luke Donald and Darren Clarke to name but two - Westwood could have to effect a dramatic rise from 31st in Ian Woosnam's points list to be sure.

"If I get there I get there, Europe will be strong with or without me," said Westwood with typical indifference before letting slip the immediacy of his real ambition. "We are playing for half a million every week now so you only need a couple of good weeks and you shoot right in there."