PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Lee Westwood will likely be in a gym in England working out when the first round of The Players Championship begins Thursday at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course.
His manager says Westwood will be taking his 10-year-old son, Sam, to London Friday to see Manchester City, Sam’s favorite soccer team, play in the FA Cup final.
Westwood’s whereabouts during an absence from The Players might not matter so much any other year, but he’s the No. 1 player in the world. For PGA Tour folks who like the sound of The Players as the game’s “fifth major,” it is strong evidence to the contrary. The best players in the world don’t skip majors, not even 'fifth majors.' This marks just the third time a No. 1 player has not played at The Players for reasons other than injury.
“Lee’s schedule is very detailed,” said Chubby Chandler, Westwood's manager. “Quite a lot of thought goes into it.”
Given PGA Tour non-member scheduling restrictions, Westwood believes skipping The Players gives him the best chance to play well at the U.S. Open, where he will be seeking to win his first major.
“If he wins the U.S. Open, everyone will say, `Well, he got it right,’” Chandler said Tuesday at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course. “If he misses the cut at the U.S. Open, everyone will say, `Well, why didn’t he play [The Players]?’ But you can only expect to tee it up in good shape. You can’t expect to win, only to give yourself a shot. I will be amazed if he doesn’t give himself a shot at Congressional.”
As a non-member of the PGA Tour, Westwood is limited to competing in 10 PGA Tour events a year. Even though the Tour stipulated late last year that The Players wouldn’t count against the 10, Westwood said the limitation still created too much havoc in his scheduling.
“It was a tough decision [to pass on The Players Championship], but you have to understand that for Europeans this isn’t like it is for Americans,” Chandler said. “For a non-PGA Tour member, it isn’t like it is for a PGA Tour member. In his ranking of importance of events, it isn’t as high as it would be for some people. It isn’t meant as a slight.”
Westwood recently said the European Tour’s BMW Championship ranks as his “fifth major.”