Lee Westwood responds with style at Ryder Cup
Sergio Garcia’s success at the 34th Ryder Cup surprised no one. The Spaniard went 3-1-1 in his Ryder Cup debut in Brookline, Mass., three years ago and was expected to lead the European team at The Belfry.
He did. Lee Westwood, however, was another story.
When Westwood played in the Ryder Cup in 1999, he was a top-10 player a year away from unseating Colin Montgomerie atop the European Tour’s Order of Merit. Of course, that was before he inexplicably lost his form and plummeted to No. 148 in the World Ranking and No. 316 in the Golfweek⁄Sagarin Performance Index. In the past two seasons in Europe, Westwood has three top-10 finishes – none since August 2001 – and the general consensus as the 2001 Ryder Cup kicked off a year late was that he’d be a happy man once the match was behind him.
But Europe captain Sam Torrance never wavered in his support of the struggling Westwood, and he significantly bolstered the Englishman’s confidence by pairing him in all four team sessions with Garcia.
“He’s been what I always expected he would be,” Torrance said of Westwood. “The boy has a lot of talent. Class is forever, and as he said earlier in the week, it’s how you respond to pressure that counts. He’s responded with style.”
If Westwood had one hole to play over, though, it would be The Belfry’s 473-yard, par-4 18th, where he three-putted from 25 feet in his Saturday four-ball match, missing a 4-foot par putt that cost him and Garcia a half-point against Tiger Woods and Davis Love III. To that point, he had played brilliantly, making seven birdies.
To the Americans’ credit, they came up with some crucial shots down the stretch. Woods made a 10-footer for birdie for a halve at No. 16. (Conceding him a 3-foot putt at 17, where Love chipped in, it was one of eight birdies for Woods.) But the Europeans, who had won their first three matchups, gave Saturday’s match away with short misses at the last two holes. In addition to Westwood’s miss at 18, Garcia gaffed a 3-footer for par a hole earlier.
All in all, the four-ball was a wild, exciting session, with many lead changes and momentum swings. At one point, the United States trailed in all four matches, only to finish a point ahead (21⁄2-11⁄2) to level the match at 8-all. Three matches went to the 18th hole, and the only one that didn’t – Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington against Phil Mickelson and David Toms – finished at 17, with Europe prevailing.
Said U.S. captain Curtis Strange: “When 24 of the best golfers in the world get together and play at a level that they played today, I don’t care if it’s my team or their team, you have to applaud and you have to say congratulations, job well done.”