Russell Knox may have raised a few eyebrows by picking Duncan Stewart as his partner, but that decision is no longer the big talking point when it comes to pairings for next week’s World Cup of Golf in Melbourne.
Spare a thought for Lee Westwood. The Edinburgh-based player had been looking forward to making his debut in the event after being selected three months ago by the Masters champion, Danny Willett, to represent England. That’s not happening now, though.
Willett withdrew at the weekend as he doesn’t want to aggravate a back problem. When Chris Wood and Andy Sullivan were then announced as England’s new representatives, it was thought that Westwood had pulled out as well. Nope. In short, he’s been snubbed. It’s no real surprise, really, that he’s not a happy bunny.
“Frustrated would be one word you could use,” said the 43-year-old, speaking at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai on the eve of the $8 million DP World Tour Championship, which he won in its inaugural staging in 2009.
“It’s not great when it all happens at the last minute, especially as I’d geared all my end-of-season plans around playing in the World Cup.
“I’m not pointing fingers, but you would have thought that, when a guy has made detailed plans and sorted out travel and everything else, he should still be in the team even when someone else has to pull out. It was a big deal for me because I’ve never played in the World Cup before. Whenever the chance came up in the past, I’d already committed to another event, so I made sure I cleared the decks this time. Danny nominated me back in early August, and it’s something I’ve been really looking forward to. But the rules state the top guy on the ranking list can take whoever he wants, so there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Indeed, Wood is perfectly entitled to pick whoever he wanted as his partner – as Knox did with Stewart despite him being a Challenge Tour player this season – and he’s gone for Sullivan because he believes that combination can come up with England’s first victory in the event since 2004. “It’s a bit of an awkward position to find yourself in, to be honest,” admitted the lanky Bristolian, who won the BMW PGA Championship, a triumph that helped him become a Ryder Cup team-mate of Westwood’s for the first time at Hazeltine. “Danny made no bones about the fact he was picking his mate, and it probably looks like I’ve done the same thing. But it goes a lot deeper than that. Once I told I was England’s No 1 representative at the World Cup, my first thought was who can I play with who will give us the best chance of winning it? And Sully ticked all the boxes.
“We’ve known each other since we were playing county golf together as kids. We also played for England as amateurs together and, of course, we made our Ryder Cup debuts at the same time earlier this year. We get on great, and I think that will help a lot when you have to play two of the four rounds in foursomes. Like I said, the bottom line is that we’re in it to win it. It’s a huge honour to represent your country in any World Cup, and bringing home that trophy would be a career highlight for anyone.
“I can understand Lee’s frustration after being named, only to be left high and dry when Danny pulled out. Maybe the rules need looking at, but I couldn’t let that affect my decision. Sully and I are a different generation to Lee, and in a way this latest Ryder Cup possibly marked a changing of the guard, where guys like myself and Sully have to step up. We’re both itching to get out there.”
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