Sizzling Westwood tests Augusta with Ryder Cup looming

Miami (AFP) –


Lee Westwood was feeling fatigued Wednesday after two days of practice for the Masters and back-to-back PGA Tour runner-up finishes that have delighted European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington.

Westwood played two rounds Monday and another Tuesday at Augusta National alongside his son Sam, who will serve as his caddie when the 47-year-old Englishman chases his first major title next month at the Masters.

"He chipped in on 18 yesterday to take the money. We'll not discuss the shots," Westwood said Wednesday.

"I will say it's as hard as I've seen Augusta play, even when it has been the week of the Masters. It was cold. It was playing long and the greens were like rock. They were really releasing out. It was a tough couple of days to play Augusta."

Westwood, who owns 25 European Tour triumphs but hasn't won a PGA Tour event since 2010, finished second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship the past two weeks, teeing off in Sunday's final pairings both times.

Even after his test at Augusta, Westwood says he never considered skipping this week and will play the Honda Classic after finishing fourth last year, with four top-10 efforts in eight starts at PGA National.

"I'm a little bit tired, I must admit. I feel a little bit drained. My legs are feeling it a little bit," Westwood said.

"I suppose I'm not expecting too much this week, but I don't know what to expect from myself at the moment. I'm obviously coming off two good results and my game feels good. I'm putting well and if I'm feeling all right tomorrow, there's no reason why I shouldn't play well."

Westwood has 19 top-10 major finishes without a victory, with two runner-up finishes at the Masters, in 2010 and 2016.

Sam will serve as his caddie this week, as he will at the Masters, after Westwood enjoyed success with fiancee Helen Storey on the bag the past two weeks. She will be back in May's PGA Championship.

"Not too much difference. I just like being out there with the both of them," Westwood said. "Both keep me relaxed. We have good chats out there. It's good bonding time.

"Helen picked the last two weeks to caddie. I think she's sick she didn't pick this week now. She was on a run, wasn't she, but she's here, so I'll be able to chat to her at night about stuff that's going on.

"Sam is enjoying himself and looking forward to this run of tournaments where he's getting to caddie."

So who will be on the bags in the Ryder Cup? "I'm not sure about the Ryder Cup yet," Westwood said. "We'll cross that bridge if I get in the team."

- 'It'd be a great story' -

It's a path Westwood had better be ready to cross. He jumped to fourth in world points on the Ryder Cup qualifying list and seems a lock to be on Irishman Harrington's roster.

"You want an experienced guy playing well, and it's great to see Lee is playing well. Everything about Lee playing well is a bonus for me," said Harrington.

"Lee in some ways looks like he's played his way in, frees up another spot for a pick... certainly you would probably ask him to do a little more than just play golf that week."

Westwood would figure to be not only a locker room leader, but maybe get some love from US fans as he has this month.

"Lee was at one stage the best player in the world," Harrington said. "He has come back as an older player, and even for his non-fans, they respect what he's doing... people are going, 'Wow, we're wishing him well, we'd like to see him get a major'. It'd be a great story to see him do it."