‘Nothing compares to the Ryder Cup’ says returning Lee Westwood

Ryder Cup veteran Lee Westwood admits he had his doubts whether he would ever play in the team again as he edges towards 50.

Team Europe's Lee Westwood practices ahead of the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin. Photo: Anthony Behar/PA Wire.

The Worksop golfer was a vice-captain in Paris three years ago and after that wondered whether he would qualify again but after sneaking in on the last eligible day the 48-year-old will now equal Sir Nick Faldo’s record of 11 appearances.

Westwood’s chances appeared to have been ruined by a final-round 77 at the BMW Championship at Wentworth which left his hopes hanging on Bernd Wiesberger not playing well enough to knock Rory McIlory out of the points list.

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The Austrian duly obliged, doing enough to secure his own place but not well enough to eliminate McIlroy, thereby ensuring Westwood’s trip to Whistling Straits.

“First and foremost I enjoyed being a vice-captain. I enjoyed watching the guys play and obviously performing very well, but it does give you a taste that you want to still be involved,” said the 48-year-old, who is the leading frontrunner to be captain in Italy in 2023.

“As the years go on and you get a little bit older, you don’t know whether you’re going to play Ryder Cup again. It’s obviously nice to be back holding the clubs again rather than other people.

“I said to the lads in the team room three years ago ‘there’s one thing worse than playing Ryder Cup practice rounds, and that’s watching somebody else do it’.

“So it’s nice to not be watching somebody else do it and doing it myself again.”

Westwood’s relationship with the Ryder Cup started well before he even turned professional but, having made a debut under Seve Ballesteros, it has become the pinnacle for him.

It is the same for many of his team-mates, which is perhaps an indicator of why Europe have won nine of the last 12 events.

“The first time I ever went to watch a golf tournament it was the Ryder Cup at the Belfry in 1989 and then again in 1993,” said the Englishman. When I did come round to playing it in 1997, it gave me a real feel for it that this was the pinnacle of team sport, and nothing really compares to the Ryder Cup.

“Passion for the Ryder Cup was never something that I had to learn or gain. Pretty much like the European team spirit is not something we have to work on, it’s just there.”