Monday 20 November 2017

Westwood fit and ready for Ryder battle

Karl MacGinty

LEE WESTWOOD passed a significant watershed yesterday in his bid to be fit for the upcoming Ryder Cup.

The Englishman played 18 holes for the first time since a ruptured muscle in his calf forced him to withdraw from the third round of the Bridgestone Invitational seven weeks ago.

Westwood walked the front nine and, under the advice of his physio and mentor Steve McGregor, used a buggy on the homeward journey at Lindrick, his local course in Yorkshire and, coincidentally, the scene of a historic Ryder Cup victory for Great Britain and Ireland in 1957.

“Lee’s been doing plenty of walking but Steve decided there was no point in taking unnecessary risks,” said Stewart Cage, the former Tour professional who works with Westwood’s management team and accompanied him yesterday.

“Everything went great. Lee’s well ahead of the schedule he set himself to be fit for Celtic Manor.”

“I haven’t had pain for three weeks,” insisted Westwood (37). “I’m feeling pretty strong and I’d be fine playing in all five matches (at the Ryder Cup).

“I’ve been working with my coach, Pete Cowen. He says I’m swinging it better than I was before, while I’m in tip-top shape physically. “I haven’t had a drink in four weeks and have lost 12lbs since the (British) Open.”

Europe’s top player in the world rankings plans a couple more rounds at home before heading to Scotland to compete in a charity event next Monday and Tuesday. Then he’ll play 36 holes next Friday. “I just want to replicate the Ryder Cup with two matches in one day,” he explained.

Coach Cowen has been at The Diamond Country Club in recent days helping US Open hero Graeme McDowell hone his game for the Austrian Open, his final event before the Ryder Cup.

McDowell missed the cut at the US PGA as he struggled for mental sharpness in the wake of his victory at Pebble Beach. But he’s returned refreshed from a five-week break and, overseen by Cowen, has spent “some time working on my game and getting ready for Celtic Manor”.

Yet the form horse in Austria must be McDowell’s Ryder Cup playing partner at Valhalla, Miguel Angel Jimenez, who last Sunday week claimed his third Tour win of the season at the European Masters.

Promising recent form suggests Damien McGrane might be ready to challenge for his second European Tour win this week in Austria, where Simon Thornton and Gary Murphy also fly the flag for Ireland.

Austrian Open

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