The Return of Westwood

By Rich LernerSeptember 14, 2010, 9:09 pm
Out since early August with a ruptured right calf muscle, Lee Westwood is taking drastic measures to ensure that he will not be a drag on Europe’s bid to win back the Ryder Cup early next month in Wales.

“I haven’t had a drink in four weeks,” he said from his home in England. “I’ve lost 12 pounds since the British Open.”

Living the Spartan lifestyle of a boxer in training for a title fight, Westwood sounded refreshed.
Lee Westwood
Lee Westwood has been the most consistent performer in majors over the last few years. (Getty Images)
“I haven’t had any pain for three weeks,” he said. “I’ve made great progress.”

Westwood’s been rehabbing the injury while working out in the gym.  With a full practice facility on his own property, he started playing golf a week and a half ago with putting, chipping, pitching and bunker play.

He hit full shots at the beginning of last week, drivers this past Monday and then worked through his entire bag each of the last two days.  

And he’s done some of it with coach Pete Cowen. “He said I’m swinging better than I was before,” said Westwood.

Wednesday, Westwood will play a full 18 for the first time since he limped away, teeing it up in Yorkshire at his home club, Lindrick, host of the 1957 Ryder Cup.

Next Monday and Tuesday, he’ll participate in a two-day charity event in Scotland, then play 36 holes in one day towards the end of the week.

“I just want to replicate the Ryder Cup with two matches in one day,” said Westwood. “I’m pretty strong at the moment. I’d be fine playing in all five matches.”

Westwood’s fine, too, with Colin Montgomerie’s captain’s choices. “I have sympathy for Paul,” he said of Paul Casey. “I’d be gutted as well.”

“But if you had a 7-footer on the last green, you’d have your money on Padraig [Harrington] because he’s done it so often.”

Westwood’s played on four winning Ryder Cup teams, winning 14, losing 10 and halving five of his 29 matches.

“I think it’s a strong European side,” he said of the 2010 team. “It’s strong on paper. But golf’s played on grass. We’ll find out in two weeks.”

It’s a team without Sergio Garcia for the first time since 1997, at least Sergio as a player. Garcia will be there as a vice captain.

“I think it’s a great move,” Westwood said. “Sergio brings a lot of passion and experience. And it’s nice to have an assistant with each match. That’s one of the few mistakes that Nick [Faldo]made at Valhalla, not having enough assistants to relay messages.”

Having emerged from a dark period of his own, Westwood is uniquely qualified to speak on Sergio’s temporary and self-imposed exile from competition.

“If you keep going around in circles it’s a bit destructive,” he explained. “You either grind through or take a break.’

“He’s 30 years old and has a lot of years left. A two- or three-month break is not the end of the world. It will probably do him some good.”

Westwood’s also qualified to expound on the voluminous subject of captain Montgomerie.  

“I spent my whole career playing with Monty,” said Westwood. “When he was winning all the Order of Merit titles I was finishing second and third and fourth. Then I won the money title in 2000 and finished his run.’

“I can have a laugh and a joke with him and I think he opens up to me more than other guys. He has a decent sense of humor and I think he’ll get along well with everyone.’

Asked how Monty will handle the notorious British tabloids fishing around in Monty’s messy private affairs, Westwood dismissed any potential problem.

“Monty’s had years of that,” he said. “He’s a pro at that.”

As for possible pairings, Westwood’s always been flexible.  

“I’ve been listening to people,” he said. “I heard Rory [McIlroy] and Martin [Kaymer] say they’d like to play with me.”

“I’m a big believer in not sending two rookies out together. So partnering with those guys would be two of the more obvious ones to me.”

Westwood didn’t watch the PGA Championship, but did see enough in the highlights to know that he’d be in good company alongside Kaymer.

“Martin holed a great clutch putt on 18 in regulation,” said Westwood. “And he rolled in the birdie on 17 in the playoff like it was a Tuesday morning practice round.”

Westwood offered one more cogent thought, on the subject of the October weather in Wales.

“Humidity won’t be a problem,” he cracked.

Nor it appears will Westwood’s health, that of mind and body.
:PEBBLE BEACH, CA - FEBRUARY 15: Brandt Snedeker hits his second shot on the second hole during the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am at the Pebble Beach Golf Links on February 15, 2015 in Pebble Beach, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

HOFer Stephenson: Robbie wants to play me in movie

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 4:20 pm

Margot Robbie has already starred in one sports-related biopic, and if she gets her way a second opportunity might not be far behind.

Robbie earned an Academy Award nomination for her work last year as former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding in the movie, I Tonya. She also has a desire to assume the role of her fellow Aussie, Jan Stephenson, in a movie where she would trade in her skates for a set of golf clubs.

That's at least according to Stephenson, who floated out the idea during an interview with Golf Australia's Inside the Ropes podcast shortly after being announced as part of the next class of World Golf Hall of Fame inductees.

"We've talked about doing a movie. Margot Robbie wants to play me," Stephenson said.

There certainly would be a resemblance between the two Australian blondes, as Robbie has become one of Hollywood's leading ladies while Stephenson was on the cutting edge of sex appeal during her playing career. In addition to several magazine covers, Stephenson also racked up 16 LPGA wins between 1976-87 including three majors.

Robbie, 28, has also had starring roles in Suicide Squad and The Wolf of Wall Street.

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Azinger: 'Can't see anybody beating Tiger' at his best

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:44 pm

There's a new world No. 1, and a fresh crop of young guns eager to make their mark on the PGA Tour in 2019. But according to Paul Azinger, the player with the highest ceiling is still the same as it was when he was walking inside the ropes.

Azinger was named Monday as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports, and on "Morning Drive" he was asked which player is the best when all are playing their best. The former PGA champion pondered new world No. 1 Brooks Koepka and former No. 1 Dustin Johnson, but he came back around to a familiar answer: Tiger Woods.

"I just can't see anybody beating Tiger when Tiger's at his best. I just can't see it," Azinger said. "He's not his best yet, but he's almost his best. And when Tiger's his best, there's more that comes with Tiger than just the score he shoots. That crowd comes with Tiger, and it's a whole 'nother dynamic when Tiger's at his best. And I'm just going to have to say that when Tiger's at his best, he's still the best."

Woods, 42, started this year ranked No. 656 in the world but had a resurgent season that included a pair of near-misses at The Open and PGA Championship and culminated with his win at the Tour Championship that ended a five-year victory drought. For Azinger, the question now becomes how he can follow up a breakthrough campaign as he looks to contend consistently against players from a younger generation.

"That's why we watch, to see if he can maintain that. To see what he's capable of," Azinger said. "Now longevity becomes the issue for Tiger Woods. In seven or eight years, he's going to be 50 years old. That goes fast. I'm telling you, that goes really fast."

When Woods returns to action, he'll do so with a focus on the upcoming Masters as he looks to capture the 15th major title that has eluded him for more than a decade. With bombers like Koepka and Johnson currently reigning on the PGA Tour, Azinger believes the key for Woods will be remaining accurate while relying on the world-class iron play that has been a strength throughout his career.

"I think he's going to have to recognize that he's not the beast out there when it comes to smacking that ball off the tee. But I'd like to see him try to hit a couple more fairways periodically. That'd be nice," he said. "If he can drive that ball in the fairway, with that putter, we've seen what his putter is capable of. The sky's the limit, boys."

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Spieth drops out of top 10 for first time since 2014

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:08 pm

As Brooks Koepka ascended to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking, a former No. 1 continued a notable decline.

Jordan Spieth didn't play last week's CJ Cup, where Koepka won by four shots. But Jason Day did, and his T-5 finish in South Korea moved him up two spots from No. 12 to No. 10 in the latest rankings. Spieth dropped from 10th to 11th, marking the first time that he has been outside the top 10 in the world rankings since November 2014.

Since that time, he has won 12 times around the world, including three majors, while spending 26 weeks as world No. 1. But he hasn't won a tournament since The Open last July, and this year he missed the Tour Championship for the first time in his career. Spieth is expected to make his season debut next week in Las Vegas at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

Koepka and Day were the only movers among the top 10 on a week that saw many top players remain in place. Sergio Garcia's rain-delayed win at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters moved him up four spots to No. 27, while Gary Woodland went from 38th to 30th after finishing second behind Koepka on Jeju Island.

Koepka will tee off as world No. 1 for the first time this week at the WGC-HSBC Champions, where new No. 2 Dustin Johnson will look to regain the top spot. Justin Rose is now third in the world, with Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Day rounding out the top 10.

With his next competitive start unknown, Tiger Woods remained 13th in the world for the fifth straight week.

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Pavin's season nearly ends after slow-play penalty

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 1:50 pm

Corey Pavin's season on the PGA Tour Champions nearly came to an end because of a slow-play penalty.

Penalties for pace are often discussed or threatened, but rarely doled out on either the PGA Tour or the over-50 circuit. But that changed Sunday during the final round of the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, where Pavin was told by a rules official after completing his round that he would receive a 1-stroke penalty for slow play.

The penalty was on the surface rather harmless, turning an even-par 72 into a 1-over 73 and dropping Pavin into a tie for 15th. But this was the first event of a three-tournament postseason for PGA Tour Champions players, and only the top 54 in points advanced to this week's Invesco QQQ Championship.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

Pavin, who has two top-10 finishes in 20 starts this season, barely held on at 53rd place after the penalty was enforced.

Slow-play discussions came up earlier this season surrounding Bernhard Langer at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, but Golf Channel analyst Lanny Wadkins expressed his surprise on the telecast that it was Pavin who got a shot added to his score.

"Of all the things to happen with all the times I have played - I can't even count the number of rounds - I never thought Corey Pavin was a slow player," Wadkins said. "All the guys we know are slow players have never been penalized out here. Where has this been for the last 15 years?"

The subject of the penalty also raised an eyebrow from Stephen Ames, who finished alongside Pavin in 15th place while Langer finished second behind Woody Austin: