x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

This time we're a team, says Westwood

The Englishman hopes to lead a united Europe in today's four-balls after saying they lost their way in Valhalla two years ago.

NEWPORT, WALES // Lee Westwood believes Europe lost their way two years ago at Valhalla when they surrendered the Ryder Cup for the first time in nearly a decade. 

They had 12 great players, he said, they just did not have much of a team. For the English star, it was a Ryder Cup to forget. He was benched for the first time in his career. 

Then, with a chance to set the Ryder Cup record by going unbeaten in 13 consecutive matches, he lost for the first time in six years. Ultimately, Europe suffered their worst loss in 27 years.

"I think there was a lot of passion at Valhalla," Westwood said yesterday. "I don't think it was directed, or guided, in the right direction at times. I think we could have pulled it together as a team a lot better at Valhalla." 

Whether that was veiled criticism of Nick Faldo, the captain in 2008, is subject to speculation. Westwood made it clear, however, that this European team feel tight bonds at the course and away from it.

He also made it clear he has no qualms leading off in the first four-ball match today, in which he and Martin Kaymer face the American pair of Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson. 

"Not at all," Westwood said. "I'm going to go out there and try and hit the first fairway in my match. Try and knock it on the green, try and win that first hole, and try and win a point. And I want to see 11 people following me. I think when push comes to shove I'll try and show them how it's done. I think we've got 11 great players who are well capable of following me through there and playing to the best of their ability."

No European on this team has played in more Ryder Cups than Westwood. He is all but assured of becoming the No 2 player in the world, and on the cusp of replacing Tiger Woods at No 1. 

The only question when he ventures out this morning is his rust. Westwood was the runner-up at the Masters and the British Open, playing some of the best golf of his career after winning the Order of Merit on the European Tour a year ago. 

Then came a nagging calf injury that reached a point where Westwood felt it best to take off seven weeks for rehabilitation.

Is he ready? "I don't have too many concerns," he said. "I don't have concern with the competitive edge. I've played well in the practice rounds, and I don't see how that's going to change in the competitive rounds. And when the match itself starts, I think I'll be up for it even more." 

* Associated Press