Lee Westwood: Pressing for a Ryder Cup berth

An old familiar name popped up at the top of the leaderboard at the PGA Championship. Lee Westwood is tied for the first-round lead with Kevin Chappell and Ryan Palmer at 6-under, 65. They have a one-stroke lead over Rory McIlroy, Jim Furyk, Henrik Stenson, Edoardo Molinari and Chris Wood.

Westwood hasn’t had a great year so far managing only two top-10s, 7th at the Masters and T6 at the Players Championship. And he missed 6 of 16 cuts. But he’s the kind of guy you pull for, smart and with a sly, playful sense of humor.

But his play has him well down both points lists of the European Ryder Cup team. He’s 18th on the European Points List where only the top 4 players earn a berth and he’s 16th on the World Points List where the leading 5 players not qualified on the European list qualify. And Captain Paul McGinley gets 3 picks.

Here are the players on the European Points List: 

  • Rory McIlroy
  • Victor Dubuisson
  • Sergio Garcia
  • Henrik Stenson

And here is the World Points List that includes those players plus the following 5 players:

  • Justin Rose
  • Martin Kaymer
  • Thomas Bjorn
  • Graeme McDowell
  • Jamie Donaldson

So Westwood is angling worst case for a Captain’s pick and best case, to qualify via the two lists:

“I’m there or thereabouts.  I wouldn’t be a million miles away with a good week this week.  That’s what I’m trying to do.  I’m still trying to qualify for the team to free up a pick for Paul.  I don’t want to rely on a pick.  I always think that there comes a bit more pressure if you’re a selection, as well, obviously, because you’ve got to try and sort of justify your pick almost.  And I don’t want to be in that position.  I’d rather qualify for the team.”

And so then it falls back on hoping that his Ryder Cup history and experience is still seen as relevant:

“Obviously I’m not in the team at the moment, but I’ve had chats with Paul and he said, you know, try and show some form.  I don’t know whether he’s just looking for a reason to pick me, but I’ve shot 63 last Sunday [at Bridgestone] and I’m leading a major this week.  So I’m ticking that box for him, and I think he probably looks back at my record and sees that I’ve played eight, so knows that I’ve got a fair amount of experience in Ryder Cups.”

His 65 Thursday understates just how well he played. He had 9 birdies offset by a fluke double bogey on the 1st hole and a just-one-of-those-things bogey on the 15th:

“Get the double‑bogey out of the way I think.  Drove it down the fairway into a divot and it wasn’t fully filled and it rolled right to the end of it and it was like caught or plugged.  So it would have been a perfect 9‑iron from the fairway and just unlucky.  Caught it a bit heavy.  Came up short of the trap.  I had a really tricky chip and tried to get it too cute.  Chipped to four feet and missed it.  I was in a good frame of mind on the second tee.”

He goes off in the late tee times at 1:25 pm with Adam Scott (Even) and Jordan Spieth (Even). It’s an interesting subplot to watch as the day unfolds.

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