Sunday 22 April 2018

Westwood questions Woods influence on US team

England's Lee Westwood. Photo: AP
England's Lee Westwood. Photo: AP

James Corrigan

The first shot in the Ryder Cup's traditional phoney war has been fired, with Lee Westwood questioning whether Tiger Woods might have "an adverse effect on the (US) team-room" at Hazeltine next week.

While Westwood will be making his 10th successive appearance in the biennial dust-up, a long-standing back injury denied Woods the chance to qualify for his eighth match. But Davis Love III, who was reappointed as US captain after coming so close to victory at Medinah in 2012, has enlisted the 14-time Major-winner as a vice-captain, alongside Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker and Tom Lehman.

Having beaten Woods in seven of the eight matches he played against him in the Ryder Cup, Westwood is not sure of the benefits he will bring.

"I don't know what impact there will be from having Tiger around," Westwood told EPSN. "They have always struggled to find a partner for Tiger that's been successful.

"He could have an adverse effect in the team room. People have always seemed to try to do too much when they have partnered him. It might be different if he's one of the vice-captains - you don't know."

Love has praised Woods' contribution thus far, claiming that he is "our tactician" with wildcards and pairings. "Tiger looks at things from maybe a little bit higher viewpoint than all of us sometimes," Love said.

Woods was a member of the 'Task Force' set up in the wake of the humiliating defeat at Gleneagles two years ago - America's third in a row and seventh in eight matches - and was influential in handing the role back to Love.

Woods played on that US side which threw away the 2012 match in such dramatic circumstances and Westwood has also shone a spotlight on Love's performance that week, as his team saw a 10-6 lead slip in the Sunday singles.

"His captaincy at Chicago was great for a couple of days," Westwood said. "I don't know if something went wrong on the Sunday, or the team didn't play very well, but that will be in the back of their minds."

At the forefront of Love's mind at the moment is the final wildcard selection he will make on Sunday night after the conclusion of the Tour Championship. Bubba Watson, the world No 7, was overlooked for one of the initial three captain's picks two weeks and this omission has also been queried by Westwood.

"There seem to have been issues about team spirit and chemistry," Westwood said. "Love has not picked Bubba Watson and I don't know what that does for team spirit - he was first outside the points qualification and is seventh in the world.

"The captain is building them up a lot and making a few interesting decisions. They have a strong side and probably are favourites but they haven't won it for a while and they are playing in front of a home crowd.

"The pressure is going to keep building in the next week or so and by the time the Ryder Cup comes around it is going to be pretty intense for them." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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