CRANS-SUR-SIERRE, Switzerland – The start of European Ryder Cup qualifying is having little effect on Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy.
Westwood is more concerned with earning points in the Race to Dubai, and McIlroy can’t seem to understand what all the fuss is about as the two prepared for this week’s European Masters.
“I am not thinking about the Ryder Cup at all,” Westwood said Wednesday. “My goal for the rest of the year is to win the Race to Dubai.”
Westwood, who is in fourth place in the race, has finished third in majors three times in the last two years, including at this year’s British Open and PGA Championship.
“Now I know what I need to work on to win one,” the Englishman added. “I just need to make small
improvements here and there.”
McIlroy is expected to make his first Ryder Cup team next year, but he has not softened his stance about the event.
“Probably I’m a bit selfish but if I miss the team I’d be more upset about not being good enough to make the team than I would about missing the event,” said McIlroy. “I would see winning a major as a lot more important than winning a Ryder Cup.”
Still, he’s confident he’ll be on the team in the end.
“If I play the next 12 months the way I’ve played the last 12 months, I should have no problems getting on the team,” McIlroy said.
This European Masters is being co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours for the first time, bringing 35 Asian Tour players into the field. Usually, there are less than 10 who are qualified for all European Tour events.
“It’s fantastic to see the Asians out here,” said Jeev Milka Singh, who won the Asian Order of Merit last year for the second time. “I feel the Asians are good chippers and putters and they’ll have a good time here.”
Other European Ryder Cup team members from 2008 playing this week in Crans-sur-Sierre are Graeme McDowell, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Oliver Wilson.
McIlroy, who is only 20 years old, made a huge impact on the PGA Tour this year. Now, he wants to atone for his loss at the European Masters last year, when he needed par at the last hole to seal the deal but sent his second shot into the greenside rough and then chipped five feet past the cup. He missed an 18-inch putt to lose the playoff against Jean-Francois Lucquin.
“I thought about it every day for a month after that,” McIlroy said. “It was such a great chance to win. It was a big lesson. Not just the missed short putts, but the wedge into the 72nd hole. I just had to hit it to the middle of the green and make two putts, lift the trophy, thanks very much.
“I was trying to be greedy. I was trying to hit it 10 feet left of the pin when I should have been trying to hit it 25 feet from the pin.”
McIlroy, who won his first title at this year’s Dubai Desert Classic, has become famous for his curly hair bubbling out from under his hat. But that won’t be the case this week.
“I couldn’t do anything with it and I got tired of it,” said McIlroy, who cut his hair this past weekend. “It was just a big ball of hair.”