HE WAS still revelling in lightening Ian Poulter’s wallet – so, too, was Luke Donald – but Lee Westwood offered the most astute opinion yet on Medinah being set up this week more for a bounce game than golf’s biggest team event.
“I’ve played here pretty much all year and I haven’t seen a golf course that’s got no rough and no rough around the greens,” said the Englishman of the way Davis Love III, the American captain, has had the Tom Bendelow-designed layout prepared for the 39th Ryder Cup.
It has been done with the home team’s big-hitters in mind but Westwood, no slouch himself with a driver, believes it could backfire on Love, pointing out that Europe had won the last time a course had been set up in a similar way by Sam Torrance.
“This isn’t a golf course that either team is particularly used to and I can’t see how it suits one team or the other,” added Westwood, who is making his eighth successive Ryder Cup appearance this week.
“I reckon the last time I played a golf course that had been set up like this, with no rough and no rough down the side of the fairways, was The Belfry in 2002 – and we set that up for ourselves. That’s a weird one for me.”
Not that Westwood was complaining. On Tuesday, playing with Donald, they were round in a 13-under-par betterball of 59 to earn some early bragging rights over Poulter and Justin Rose in the European team room.
“We came out fast and were just way too good for Ian and Justin,” declared a beaming Westwood. “And they are a lot lighter this morning in their pockets.”
Donald, who admitted there is a “chemistry” between him and Westwood on the course, enjoyed taking money off Poulter. “It’s always pleasing when you can take cash out of Ian’s wallet – and a few moths fell out at the same time,” he joked.
Westwood was announced at his media conference as the “most tenured member” of the European team. He’s played in seven matches under seven different captains. Jose Maria Olazabal will be number eight.
He spoke warmly of the European captain. “First and foremost, he’s a good, solid man. He’s honest. He’ll tell you what he thinks. He’s calculated. Then you bring into it his passion and his flair, the fact he teamed up with Seve Ballesteros. He’s the all-round package.”
Westwood was asked to pick out the highs and lows from his seven previous appearances. He admitted both could probably have been rolled into one at The K Club, where he partnered Darren Clarke, his long-time friend, on the opening day as he made an emotional appearance on home soil following the death of his wife, Heather, from breast cancer.
“I guess one of the highlights was walking on to the first tee at The K Club with Darren, though it was a low point actually having to be in that situation,” he confessed. “That was a very emotional Ryder Cup for everybody, but I’m close to Darren and it was a tough one. It was nice to see it all work out in the end and for him to see light at the end of the tunnel that week.”
While Paul Lawrie has travelled nearly 4,000 miles to be here this week, Donald is competing on his own doorstep. After attending Northwestern University as a teenager, he now lives just 25 miles north of Medinah.
His wife Diane – the pair met when Donald was at college – took some of the other European player’s spouses and partners on a sightseeing trip in the “Windy City” earlier in the week and it’s clearly a home from home for the world No 3.
“I can hopefully garner a little bit of the support from the crowd because of that and turn that into a slight advantage for Team Europe,” he said.
He has played in three previous Ryder Cups, winning all of them. He admitted that had been achieved despite the three men having different styles of captaincy. “I’ve played with Bernhard [Langer], who was the most meticulous, detail-orientated captain that I have played under,” said Donald. I played under Ian Woosnam, more of a laissez faire, let’s-just-go-out-and-play captain.
“Monty [Colin Montgomerie] was somewhere in between, so we won all three of them with different personalities. The captains can only do so much. They can try to make sure they get the pairings correct and the order of pairings. They can try and make you feel comfortable.
“But, in the end, you just have to go out and play your best – and you’ve also got to putt well. That’s what wins Ryder Cups.”