Westwood staying in Europe

10/6/2010 4:05:06 PM
Lee Westwood  (Getty Images)
Lee Westwood (Getty Images)

Lee Westwood starts his bid for the world number one spot in Scotland tomorrow after making one of the biggest decisions of his career - he will not be joining the PGA Tour next year.

A week that began with him becoming a Ryder Cup winner for the fifth time in seven matches will end with him deposing Tiger Woods if he can finish first or second at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

But, whether he achieves that goal or not, the 37-year-old from Worksop is putting family first and turning his back on the fortunes on offer in America.

Jim Furyk, for instance, earned more than £7million for winning the FedEx Cup play-offs a fortnight ago, but it simply does not interest Westwood.

One of nine Ryder Cup heroes playing this week - captain Colin Montgomerie is also in the field - Westwood said: "The FedEx Cup sits right in the middle of the kids' summer holidays and I like going on holiday with them.

"I don't want to be dictated to by having to go to America to play FedEx Cup when it doesn't really mean that much to me.

"It doesn't mean enough to me anyway.

"I think they (the PGA Tour) would like me to go and be a member there, but as of Monday evening I became an individual again and I do what's right for Lee Westwood now."

It was a conversation with manager Andrew "Chubby" Chandler that settled things in his mind.

"Chubby said 'why take up membership in the States when you've been the most successful player in the world this year and (despite a seven-week injury lay-off) still have a great chance to go to world number one?

"'You've come second in two major championships, you must be doing something right, why not stick to the same schedule?'

"I don't want to get into a situation where I have to play events in America just to make up 15."

That is the minimum requirement for US Tour members.

Ending the latest five-year reign of Woods would be a remarkable achievement for Westwood, who reached fourth in the rankings nine years ago but then slumped outside the top 250 and feared there might be no way back.

It reached its nadir with rounds of 81 and 79 for 136th place in the 2003 Portuguese Open.

"If somebody had said then that I was going to have a chance to go to number one I would have treated it with a fair amount of scepticism," he added.

"But golf is a strange thing. Why not? I went from fourth to 250th, why not be able to go the other way?

"I'm quite a positive thinker, but I'm obviously in a better position than I would have ever dreamt back there."

The last European to be number one was Nick Faldo in 1994 and Westwood would join Ian Woosnam, Fred Couples and David Duval in achieving it without winning a major.

They all went on to do so - in Woosnam's case just a week later at The Masters Tournament - and after coming third in the last two majors of last season, runner-up at Augusta National in April and second again at The 139th Open Championship in July, Westwood is hoping his turn will come.

He decided not to play a practice round today in order to get more rest after his exertions at the Celtic Manor Resort - and the celebrations that followed, of course.

Asked to recount what they were like he said: "I wish I could remember."

He does remember, though, losing to Mickelson - Amy, not Phil - at table tennis.

"Mentally it's quite hard to refocus after such a big week," he added. "Physically it's very demanding, but I suppose I was slightly helped out by the fact that it was drawn out over four days and it was only four rounds (rather than the usual five)."

The ranking system is such that if he took the next fortnight off - he defends the Portugal Masters next week - he would automatically dethrone Woods.

"That's not me," he stated. "That's not the way I want to do it. I want to get to world number one by playing the way I have for the last two years and proving I'm the best."
“I think the thing this week to do is to concentrate on the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.  It's easy to get distracted and not be able to refocus after last week.

“Going to number two on Monday, and having a chance to go to number one, I could get drawn towards that, as well. But obviously if I take care of business on the golf course this week, then the world number one ranking takes care of itself.

 “So my priority is trying to win this tournament this week, as it normally is.  I normally only turn up to a tournament with one thing in mind and that's performing well in the tournament.”