'You wait two years for the Ryder Cup then you can't wait for it to be over'

Opinion

When it comes to the Ryder Cup, Lee Westwood has seen it all. Mark Townsend sat down with the Team Europe stalwart to look back over the last 20 years

How unique is the Ryder Cup?

It’s bizarre in that you want it to be over as quickly as possible, with as good a result as possible and the right outcome, but then once it’s over you can’t wait for it to happen again, you can’t wait for the qualification process to come round again and you want to be on the next team because it really is a unique experience to play on a Ryder Cup team.

What has been your favourite performance that you have been part of?

Watching Nicolas Colsaerts, I was his partner when he shot 10 under in the Friday fourballs at Medinah. If I was a jockey it was just hands and heels, he did all the work and that was great to see him in his first Ryder Cup as a rookie. Just taking to it like a duck to water and really soaking it all up and making putts from everywhere.

Tiger couldn’t believe it, he kept looking at me and shaking his head. It was great to watch a rookie take to it like that. I’d be 15 feet from the hole and he’d suddenly make one from 30. It’s one of the best putting displays I’ve ever seen but he played well as well. I think I won the 12th hole or something like that and that was the only time he was out of the match.

What was the 1st tee like at the K Club?

That was obviously very emotional and really for the wrong reason, Heather (Clarke) had passed away and everybody was so emotional on that 1st tee. Myself and Darren were playing Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco and I was holding myself together brilliantly until I got about five yards short of the 1st tee. I was waiting for Darren and he started to well up a little bit.

Phil’s got tears in his eyes and Chris DiMarco has got tears in his eyes and all the caddies have got tears in their eyes and the starter has got tears in his eyes and then I started to well up.

It was obviously a very emotional moment and Darren stood up, wiped the tears away and smashed it 300 yards down the middle and hit it to 15 feet and holed it for birdie – and that kind of really got him going, it got me going and got the rest of the European team going.

What was Seve like to play under?

He was great to play under as a rookie. On the 11th hole I was chipping from just right of the green in a practice round and all of a sudden the crowd parted, I must have not played a very good chip and he came out and he grabbed a lob wedge off me and flicked one up there to about six inches. He just showed me how to do it and I was like, yeah, thank you Seve.

What is the most special win that you’ve been part of?

I don’t think the final day at Medinah will ever be replicated. We were so far behind; you watch the video of that final day and just everything went right and the putts went in at the right time. There are some games that even though I know what has happened, like Justin Rose’s game, I still watch it now thinking he’s never going to win this and I know he has.

We made the putts at the right time, they missed at certain times and it still came down to Martin holing that five-footer up the hill.

Tell us about your involvement on that final day…

I was playing Matt Kuchar in the eighth or ninth match and we had talked in the team room about getting off to a fast start and get the momentum in our favour and get them under pressure which we were doing.

I was fine, I wasn’t nervous until Jose Maria came up to me on about the 12th and he looked at me, and he already had a few tears in his eyes, and I said, ‘Yeah, I know you need me to win.’

We were all square at the time and I think I won three out of the next four holes and ended up winning 3&2, so it was nice to win that one.

Who have been your favourite partners?

I really enjoyed playing with Darren and Sergio and I’ve had great records with both of them and Luke as well so I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve had a lot of good partners in the Ryder Cup and that is a big part of why I’ve got such a good record and such a high points total.

I have run into a few steam trains in the singles but in the foursomes and fourballs. I guess I make the other person feel pretty comfortable out on the course and I’ve got a pretty steady game where I don’t get the team into too much trouble, I’m never out of a hole too much so it makes me a pretty good partner to have and the other
person can just relax and do their thing.

Who have been your trickiest opponents?

For as steady as they were and the fact that they didn’t give anything away Jeff Maggert and Scott Verplank were two of the toughest competitors. And Tom Lehman in Boston in 1999 was obviously a tough competitor as well.

The best anybody’s played against me would probably be Jimmy Walker at Gleneagles, I think he was something like 8 or 9 under when he beat me on the 16th, I was 5 under and gone.

What do you make of Le Golf National?

I think it’s trickier than most in terms of getting to learn the course and getting your head round its little idiosyncrasies.

There are bits of trouble that you don’t realise are there until you actually hit it in there and that comes from playing it for years and years. It’s been a venue on the European Tour for a long time now and I think it’s going to suit us, it’s a tight golf course and obviously most of the team will have played it quite a lot.

There’s a lot of water in place especially over the last few holes. It will be a great Ryder Cup venue and very exciting particularly with the amphitheatre style of course, it will create some drama there’s no doubt about that.

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