Lee Westwood is determined to avoid “Ryder Cup-itis” as he looks to qualify for a tenth consecutive appearance in the biennial contest against the United States.
Westwood would be an obvious vice-captain for his good friend and European skipper Darren Clarke at Hazeltine, but is just outside the qualifying places after second place in the Masters and tenth in the Irish Open.
“It sits high [in my priorities] but it’s never been something I’ve really worried about or focused on too much,” said Westwood, who has already put his name forward to captain the side in 2020.
“I tend to think that, when people start worrying about qualifying for the Ryder Cup, that’s when they get Ryder Cup-itis, really, and they start to hit the wall and slow down earning points.
“It’s a bit like the World Rankings and the money list. It’s a culmination of playing week-in, week-out and, if you do that, then the Ryder Cup just comes as a by-product of playing well week-to-week.
“When you look at the records, there’s not that many people played that many Ryder Cups. It’s something that I’m immensely proud of; that I’ve played every year since 1997 and won a lot of points, as well. It would be nice to play a tenth one and get some more points for the team.
“I’m a lot happier with my game than I have been for quite some time. I started working with Pete Cowen again at Houston and it had a pretty immediate effect. We just did a couple of hours there and then an hour at the Masters and I think that showed at Augusta. I started hitting the ball a lot straighter and iron shots were a lot better.
“I did a bit of work with Bob Rotella on the putting green at Augusta, as well. He seemed to free me up a little bit and I rolled a few more putts in there. Just feel a lot more aggressive but a lot more calm on the greens, and my short game’s good, as well.”
Westwood was speaking ahead of his 23rd consecutive appearance in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth this week, a record which puts some of Europe’s other big names to shame.
Former champions Rory McIlroy and Paul Casey, as well as Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia, are not in the field, while Ernie Els, who oversaw a controversial redesign of the West Course, is also absent.
“I understand why Rory is not playing,” Westwood added. “Unfortunately, this time of year, there’s a lot of tournaments that he enjoys playing in and plays well in. I can understand why he went to Quail Hollow and then The Players and then obviously he wants to support The Irish Open last week and I know he likes the Memorial.
“Somewhere along the line, a tournament has to give and, unfortunately, it is this one. There are other players who don’t like the way this golf course sets up for them, so they miss it because of that. Ideally you would like everybody to play but we don’t live in an ideal world.
“We have to pick and choose where we play, and some people choose not to play this, but I think in general, the top players support the European Tour as much as they can.”