Every bubble eventually bursts, or at least deflates, and for Lee Westwood yesterday the post-Ryder Cup euphoria blew up in his face. His hopes of playing his way into world No 1 position on Sunday were all but crushed when his calf injury flared up during the first round of the Dunhill Links Championship.
Westwood "felt it coming on walking off the seventh tee down a steep downslope" and considered withdrawing from the £3.1m event. And even though the physiotherapist gave him the all clear to continue, it is understood he will then take a month's break. There are obvious concerns about his immediate future.
"Steve [McGregor, his fitness coach] says it won't be right for six months," said Westwood. "All the big events this year are gone for me. I got myself back to the Ryder Cup and didn't let anyone down. But the most important thing now is to be in good physical condition for the Masters."
Westwood spoke to McGregor last night, who assured him it would not make the injury any worse if he played on here, but also advised that a four-week rest would then be in order.
It was plainly a huge blow for Westwood who was in such good form last week. Bizarrely, however, he will probably still graduate to the top of the rankings even if he falls short here and then decides to hang up his spikes. Indeed, if he doesn't tee it up again until the end of October and if, as expected, none of Woods, Phil Mickelson or Steve Stricker plays competitively in that spell, he will become the first Englishman since Nick Faldo in 1994 to assume the top spot. That would not be the worst consolation as he hands over the Order of Merit title, as now seems certain.
"Playing two weeks in a row was probably too much in hindsight," admitted Westwood. "I should have gone back to rehab. I'm going to go and get treatment, but I don't want to get back to where it was. I don't want to be stupid, that's the problem. I made a mistake going to the Bridgestone. It's difficult because I've never been injured before and don't know how careful I've got to be. If it had happened yesterday I would have pulled out."
In fact, there were suspicions at Celtic Manor last week that Westwood's ruptured plantaris muscle was proving troublesome, despite his belief it had recovered "100 per cent" in the seven weeks since he pulled out of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in Akron. The 37-year-old hinted as much as he limped off this spectacular layout, one of three Fife courses being used for this prestigious pro-am.
"Did adrenaline get me through the Ryder Cup? Yeah, I think so," said Westwood. "I was warned by Steve and Chubby [Chandler, his agent] not to be the martyr and play five matches. I didn't because of the changed format – but I still played four days and it was a hilly golf course. And this is a hilly course, probably the hilliest of three we play here. I didn't hit any balls on Tuesday and I didn't do anything on Wednesday. I just hit a few balls. The problem is down my right leg and the right leg is quite key to swinging the golf club."
In the event, he did well to post a two-under 70, four off the leading group including Scotland's Martin Laird and the Ryder Cup vice-captain, Thomas Bjorn. Of the nine Ryder Cup winners playing, Martin Kaymer fared best with a four-under 68. The German was alongside Colin Montgomerie – who shot a 72 – with the Europe captain expressing how much he relished being "just" a player again.
"There were 30 to 40 people watching me when I teed off at 9.11am and it was joyous only to have that amount watching me," said Montgomerie, who has fallen out of the world's top 400. "I enjoyed playing today without any added pressure on my back."
Rory McIlroy will certainly feel some of that today as the marquee players move on to the Old Course at St Andrews, with Carnoustie to follow tomorrow. After a one-under 71, the young Ulsterman said: "The last time I played at St Andrews on a Friday I shot an 80." The bad news for McIlroy is that 30mph winds are forecasted; just like they were at the Open in July.
Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, St Andrews, Carnoustie & Kingsbarns, Scotland (GB & Irl unless stated, par 72):
St Andrews 66 T Bjorn (Swe); R Gonzalez (Arg). 67 K Ferrie; D Willett. 68 R Bland; M Erlandsson (Swe); A McLean; P Waring; C Carranza (Arg); G Storm; S Dodd; J Donaldson; C Coetzee (SA). 69 M Lundberg (Swe); M Siem (Ger); F Aguilar (Chile); G Boyd; D McKenzie (Aus); S Gallacher; S Lowry; P Martin (Sp). 70 J Lima (Por); R Rock; M Warren; A Canete (Arg); P Hedblom (Swe); J Edfors (Swe); R McGowan; T Levet (Fr). 71 J Elson; R Jan Derksen (Neth); P Lawrie; O Henningsson (Swe); S O'Hara; J Quesne (Fr). 72 M Wiegele (Aut); G Lockerbie; M Ruiz (Par); A Butterfield; R McEvoy; R Echenique (Arg); M Brown (NZ); O Fisher. 73 D Drysdale; G Murphy; M Both (Aus); M Jonzon (Swe); J Morrison; G Havret (Fr); T Fisher Jnr (SA). 74 J Huldahl (Den). 75 M Foster. 76 P Whiteford; J Geary (NZ). 77 K Mcnicoll.
Carnoustie 66 M Lafeber (Neth). 67 T Wilkinson (NZ). 68 R Finch. 69 A Kang (US); R Ramsay; T Aiken (SA); J Kingston (SA); D Dixon; D Lynn; R Jacquelin (Fr). 70 J Gonnet (Fr); P Price; A Canizares (Sp); M Griffin (Aus). 71 A Hansen (Den); R Green (Aus); I Garrido (Sp); J Kamte (SA). 72 H Otto (SA); G Maybin; B Barham; S Hansen (Den); J Norris (Aus); A Noren (Swe); R Kulacz (Aus); M Brier (Aut); P Archer; G Fdez-Castano (Sp). 73 S Hutsby; A Wall; J Sandelin (Swe); N Colsaerts (Bel); S Strange (Aus); T Goya (Arg); B Dredge. 74 M Campbell (NZ); S Little; F Andersson Hed (Swe); D Horsey; P O'Malley (Aus). 75 P Sjoland (Swe); G Bhullar (India); M Manassero (It); J M Lara (Sp). 76 D Garza (US); N Fasth (Swe). 77 B Pieters (SA); C Muniyappa (India); L Mckechnie (Aus); T Van Aswegen (SA); S S P Chowrasia (India); J Randhawa (India). 78 P Edberg (Swe). 79 F Delamontagne (Fr). 80 B Rumford (Aus). 82 J Van de Velde (Fr).
Kingsbarns 66 M Laird. 67 S Kjeldsen (Den); J Parry; F Zanotti (Par). 68 D Vancsik (Arg); R Coles; M Kaymer (Ger); A Quiros (Sp). 69 A Da Silva (Br); R Fisher; D Howell; A Coltart; G Bourdy (Fr); V Dubuisson (Fr); S Dyson. 70 S Webster; G McDowell; E Els (SA); P Lawrie; L Westwood. 71 R McIlroy; S Hend (Aus); M Ilonen (Fin); R Davies; M Hoey; P Harrington; P Larrazabal (Sp). 72 C Cevaer (Fr); F Molinari (It); D McGrane; O Wilson; C Montgomerie; P Gustafsson (Swe); N Dougherty; S Khan. 73 A Haig (SA); C Wood; R Goosen (SA); J Luiten (Neth); G Coetzee (SA); T Pilkadaris (Aus); C Scott (Aus); S Thornton; E Molinari (It). 74 P Hanson (Swe); S Kapur (India); A Dodt (Aus); R Cabrera Bello (Sp); P McGinley. 75 J Daly (US); A Forsyth; A Hall (Aus). 76 K Horne (SA); J Lucquin (Fr); D Clarke. 77 R Karlsson (Swe).Reuse content