Lee Westwood grabs chance to be Ryder Cup vice-captain

Lee Westwood 'jumped at the chance' to be a vice-captain in this year's Ryder Cup, even though it almost certainly signals an end to his remarkable playing record in the contest.

(L-R) Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood, Robert Karlsson, Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald with European skipper Thomas Bjorn, centre. Picture: Getty
(L-R) Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood, Robert Karlsson, Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald with European skipper Thomas Bjorn, centre. Picture: Getty

European captain Thomas Bjorn completed his backroom team by naming Westwood, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Luke Donald as vice-captains ahead of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, with Sweden’s Robert Karlsson having already been selected.

Since making his debut in 1997, Westwood has played in the last ten contests, one short of Nick Faldo’s record, and was on the winning side seven times, compiling a total of 23 points bettered only by Faldo (25), Bernhard Langer (24) and Colin Montgomerie (23 ½).

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And although the Edinburgh-based 45-year-old and his fellow vice-captains could still qualify to face the United States at Le Golf National in Paris from 28-30 September, Westwood (117th) is the only one of the five currently ranked inside the world’s top 200.

“Obviously I’ve been on ten Ryder Cup sides, but never been involved with the role behind the scenes,” said Westwood, who failed to win a point in the defeat at Hazeltine in 2016 after being given a wild card by Darren Clarke. “So when Thomas asked me to take that role I was obviously delighted and jumped at the chance. Myself and Thomas have known each other many years and anything I can do to have a bit of input and help, I will gladly do, and it will be nice to see him take on his role as captain and support him as much as I can.”

Asked if he had mixed feelings at not being involved as a player, Westwood added: “No, not really. I’m of an age now where my chances of making the team go down quite significantly, and it’s something that I’ve always been interested in, having played so many, but never been on the other side of it and seeing what goes on.

“Playing in a Ryder Cup is very special. But to be involved with it is very special as well and something I want to do.

“Thomas has pulled together a good team here with a lot of knowledge and experience and hopefully at the right times we can give the right words to somebody less experienced than us that might be playing their first one.”

Harrington is the only vice-captain with previous experience of the role, but Donald has never tasted defeat in four appearances as a player and McDowell secured the winning point at Celtic Manor in 2010, as well as winning the French Open twice at this year’s venue.

“All five are widely respected throughout the game, are all current players who are well known to the players who will be in our team come September and they also all possess a knowledge and understanding of what to expect from Le Golf National,” Bjorn said.

“You only need to look at the record books to see that their Ryder Cup pedigree speaks for itself. Each of them has played both home and away so they are well versed in the contest and know how to handle the special and unique atmosphere. They all possess strong personalities but each of them will also bring something different to the team, giving us great balance. They have forthright opinions which is vital under the spotlight of a Ryder Cup week and can only help our cause as we try and regain the trophy.”

Westwood and Harrington have also expressed an interest in the captaincy and could be rivals to succeed Bjorn and lead Europe in 2020 at Whistling Straits.

Bjorn’s opposite number Jim Furyk has named Davis Love, Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker as assistants, although Woods has stated his intention to play on the team as well.