The Open: Westwood believes he has cleared 'mental block'

By Sports Desk July 14, 2021

Lee Westwood is entering The Open Championship optimistic he can contend as he hopes to have cleared the "mental block" he had at Royal St George's.

The 48-year-old fell away from a promising position at the Scottish Open last week but is confident his game is in a good place.

Westwood missed the cut in 2003 and 2011 when the tournament was last played at the Kent links, but he has attempted to banish those memories for the last major of 2021.

"Coming into this week, I've played here twice in the Open Championship, missed the cut both times," he said.

"Kind of had it in my head, a bit of a mental block that I didn't like the golf course, but I played it [on Tuesday] and really enjoyed it. 

"I loved the way it was set up. I couldn't really remember the golf course too much, probably because I didn't have that much experience of playing on it, only having played two rounds each Open. 

"I really enjoyed it. Enjoyed the conditions and it sort of turned my head around and made me look forward to the week even more really. 

"I'm positive and hoping I can find some form and get into contention. Like all links tournaments, you need a little bit of luck with the weather, you need some good breaks.

"I did win around here as an amateur, so I've had some kind of form around here in the past. I'm just trying to look at it more positively than I've missed two cuts. 

"There will be underlying facts there; I might not have been playing well or my head might not have been in the right place. 

"I feel like if I get my game where it needs to be and it's good for that week, I can contend."

Phil Mickelson won the US PGA Championship to become the oldest major champion at the age of 50 this year.

Westwood was therefore asked if that meant he still had hope of winning one as he prepares to make his 88th major appearance.

He said: "We're from a generation that's maybe had the benefit of sports medicine and maybe a little bit more analytical, knowing what's going on. 

"Tiger [Woods] came on the scene and everybody sort of took that a little bit more seriously mid to late '90s. All the other players that wanted to get ahead of the game sort of looked to him.

"Rather than [golf being an] 'I've been working out for six months thing' and 'this is a quick-fix thing', it's a long-term thing with the likes of myself and Phil, Stewart Cink, people like that playing.

"Look at Bernhard Langer – he's playing well into his 60s because he's looked after himself 30 years ago, not because he started going in the gym three weeks ago. 

"Mine and Phil's generation are now reaping the benefits of the hard work for the last 20 years, analysing movements in the swing and working on injury prevention to those parts of the body that get injured."

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  • Ryder Cup: USA's rookies out to party like it's 1999 as Westwood closes in on Mickelson record Ryder Cup: USA's rookies out to party like it's 1999 as Westwood closes in on Mickelson record

    The time for talking is almost done as the coronavirus-delayed 43rd Ryder Cup gets under way at Whistling Straits on Friday.

    Europe head into the much-anticipated showdown with the United States as defending champions after winning 17.5 - 10.5 at Le Golf National in 2018.

    This year's edition in Wisconsin promises to be as competitive as ever, with USA hoping their team of rookies can prevail against their more experienced European opponents.

    Here, Stats Perform picks out the best of the facts and figures ahead of the first tee off.

     

    EUROPE'S RECENT DOMINANCE

    – This year's Ryder Cup is the 43rd edition, with nearly half of those (21) having pitted Europe against USA. Due to the tournament being delayed by a year by the coronavirus pandemic, this is the first Ryder Cup to be held in an odd year since 1999.

    Europe have the upper hand with 11 victories since 1979, compared to eight for USA. There was a tie in 1989, which saw Europe regain the cup having won the previous edition two years earlier.

    Europe have won nine of the last 12 Ryder Cups, including half of the last eight played on US soil.

    – Six of the last eight Ryder Cups have seen a final score gap of at least five points. The gap was never more than three points in each of the previous eight editions (1987 to 2002).

    – This year's Ryder Cup is the first to be played in Wisconsin, making it the 19th US state to host the tournament, with only California, Massachusetts and Ohio having played host on more than one occasion.

    – Since 1979, only four of the 20 Ryder Cups have seen a team overturn a deficit going into the singles (1993, 1995, 1999 and 2012).

    – USA have won 12 of the 20 singles sessions against Europe since 1979 (60 per cent). However, since 2002, Europe have the upper hand in the Sunday format, winning it six times in nine attempts.

    Only two of the 42 Ryder Cups have ended in a tie: 1969 (16-16) and 1989 (14-14).

    WESTWOOD LEADS THE WAY FOR EXPERIENCED EUROPE

    – With a combined total of 156 matches played at the Ryder Cup, this is the most experienced European team since the 1995 edition (196 matches). Three players are making their debut for Europe: Bernd Wiesberger, Viktor Hovland and Shane Lowry, half as many as the US team (six).

    – Fifty per cent of the European team are made up of English players (six out of 12). Since the introduction of Team Europe in 1979, that ties the highest number of English players after 2016.

    – In Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm, Spain have a playing representative at the Ryder Cup for the 21st consecutive edition. In fact, other than England, they are the only nation to have had at least one player at every Ryder Cup edition since the introduction of Team Europe in 1979.

    – Rahm – world number one and Europe's most recent major winner (US Open 2021) – is playing in his second Ryder Cup. He won only one of his three matches in 2018, but that was the singles match against Tiger Woods, only the American's second ever loss in the singles format after 1997.

    Garcia is the highest points scorer in the history of the Ryder Cup (25.5 points out of a possible 41). The Spaniard is taking part in his 10th Ryder Cup – that's every edition since 1999 except 2010. It is also only the third time he has been a captain's pick after 2002 and 2018.

    – Rory McIlroy is making his sixth consecutive Ryder Cup appearance (all since 2010), the longest current run among European players. He has played every single session at the tournament since his debut in 2010.

    – Viktor Hovland is the youngest player at this year's Ryder Cup – he will be aged 24 years and six days on the opening day of the tournament. He is also the first Norwegian to play in the tournament.

    – This is Lee Westwood's 11th Ryder Cup, joining Nick Faldo as the European player with the most appearances in the biennial tournament. If he plays at least four matches, he will overtake Phil Mickelson for the most in the tournament's history. Westwood is also the oldest player at this year's tournament.

    HISTORY ON USA'S SIDE

    – USA have six Ryder Cup rookies at this year's tournament, the most since 2008. In fact, they have won both previous editions against Europe where at least 50 per cent of their team was made up of newcomers: 1979 (eight rookies) and 2008 (six rookies).

    – Eight of the 12 American players at this year's Ryder Cup are aged under 30, which is twice as many as the European team (four out of 12).

    – Collin Morikawa is the youngest US player at this year's Ryder Cup – he will be aged 24 years, seven months and 18 days on the opening day of the tournament.

    – Tony Finau's first Top 10 at a major came in the 2015 US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. He won two of his three matches in his only previous Ryder Cup appearance in 2018, setting the second-best points ratio (66.7 per cent) in the US team after Justin Thomas (80 per cent, four points out of a possible five).

    – This is Brooks Koepka's third – and consecutive – Ryder Cup appearance. He won three of his four matches the last time it was held in the United States (2016).

    – This is Jordan Spieth's fourth consecutive Ryder Cup appearance. He has collected eight points from a possible 11 in fourballs/foursomes, a 73 per cent scoring rate. Only Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have a better ratio among US players in the team format.

    – At 37, Dustin Johnson is the oldest member of this year's US Ryder Cup team. This is his fifth appearance in the showpiece event, winning only one of his previous four (2016). He is the US player with the most matches played in the history of the tournament without a single half point (W7 L9).

    – Bryson DeChambeau lost all three of his matches in his only previous Ryder Cup appearance in 2018. He was the only US player to remain scoreless alongside Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, whom he both partnered in 5 and 4 losses.

  • Ryder Cup: Stars who could earn their stripes for the USA and Europe Ryder Cup: Stars who could earn their stripes for the USA and Europe

    After three long years, the wait for another Ryder Cup ends this week as the United States and Europe take to the fairways and greens of Whistling Straits. 

    Europe are the holders but the USA start as favourites for many observers, with home advantage and a formidable-looking team. 

    There will be shocks along the way and there will be some expected stars of the show who end up taking a back seat as unlikely heroes emerge. 

    Captains Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington will have their own ideas of who might be best placed to make a telling impression. 

    Here, Stats Perform looks at four players who could make a huge impact across the weekend in Wisconsin. 

    UNITED STATES: Super Spieth ready to show his teeth

    Jordan Spieth has been a resurgent force this year, finishing second at the Open Championship and in a tie for third at the Masters, while at the other two majors he finished a respectable 19th and 30th. 

    The American also ended a four-year wait for a victory on the PGA Tour with a sweet win in his home state at the Texas Open in April and is primed to cap a fine year with a strong Ryder Cup. 

    Spieth has mentioned in the build-up that he loves the course set-up at Whistling Straits, which he feels provides scoring opportunities on almost every hole. 

    The 28-year-old also referenced his previous Ryder Cup success. He has collected eight points from a possible 11 in fourballs/foursomes, a 73 per cent scoring rate. Only Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have a better ratio among USA players in the team format. 

    UNITED STATES: Nice guy Finau just the man for Stricker's superstars

    American teams in the past have been accused of…well…not exactly getting along. Having the ultimate good guy in the team is sure to boost morale and Tony Finau certainly fits that mould. 

    But make no mistake, Finau is a guy with real pedigree – even if sometimes he hasn't quite been able to convert that into wins (his triumph at the Northern Trust last month was only his second PGA Tour title and first in five years). 

    On his Ryder Cup debut, he was one of few bright notes for Team USA, with Finau winning two of his three matches – including a singles win over the otherwise unflappable Tommy Fleetwood, setting the second-best points ratio (66.7 per cent) in the American team after Justin Thomas (80 per cent, four points out of a possible five). 

    Moreover, at the 2015 US PGA Championship, Finau finished 10th having shot four sub-par rounds at Whistling Straits. Finau is the sort of character who can really flourish at a Ryder Cup, particularly with home support behind him. 

     

    EUROPE: Europe eye trophy Rahm raid

    Jon Rahm is the man for the big occasion. He is the only player to have secured a top-10 finish at all four majors this year, while he is also Europe's most recent victor at one of the leading events, having won the U.S. Open. 

    The world number one's Ryder Cup debut did not go entirely to plan in 2018, as he won only one of his three matches, but that triumph was in a singles match-up with Tiger Woods – only Tiger's second loss in the format. 

    Now established at the forefront of the sport, Rahm will expect to be the man to lead Europe to glory with an improved all-round showing, justifying his status as the bookmakers' favourite to be the leading points scorer at Whistling Straits. 

    EUROPE: Viktor sounds like a winner

    Belgium's Thomas Pieters was the top points scorer five years ago at Hazeltine, scoring four points but ending on the losing side. With Norway's Viktor Hovland relishing his debut on the team, could there be another surprise leader on the points board? 

    Hovland played college golf for Oklahoma State and has been a familiar figure on the PGA Tour, so playing in America is second nature. He was low amateur at the Masters and U.S. Open in 2019, won the U.S. Amateur, and has come of age since, jumping to a career-high world ranking of number 10 in August. 

    Eight top-10 finishes and just one missed cut since the turn of the year show what he brings, and that level of consistent play is bound to appeal to captain Harrington. 

    "I'd like to think I have some fans out there that maybe won't necessarily boo against us," Hovland said this week. "But if they do end up doing that, that's what they're going to do. We're still going to play golf, and if they do end up doing that, that means we're doing something good." 

  • Ryder Cup: The format explained Ryder Cup: The format explained

    The 43rd Ryder Cup begins at Whistling Straits on Friday a year later than planned, with Europe seeking to retain the trophy after hammering the United States in Paris three years ago.

    Delayed by 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic, golf's most famous team competition makes its long-awaited return after Europe's 17.5 – 10.5 victory at Le Golf National in 2019.

    Ahead of the action, Stats Perform explains the format of the contest.

     

    HOW THE POINTS ARE SCORED

    A total of 28 matchplay contests will be played across three days, with each contest worth one point.

    If a match is level after 18 holes, Europe and the United States simply take half a point each.

    As holders, Europe need only 14 points to retain the trophy, while their opponents must reach 14.5 to regain the Ryder Cup.

    FOURBALLS AND FOURSOMES

    The first two days are all about teamwork.

    On Friday and Saturday, the morning sessions will involve fourball matches, each team fielding eight players in four pairings.

    The fourball format is often known as better-ball as each duo takes their best individual score on each hole. So, for example, if Rory McIlroy makes a three and Jon Rahm a four, it is McIlroy's score that counts.

    After the morning fourball sessions, things get interesting in the afternoons as eight more players from each side combine for foursomes action.

    In this format, the two men on each team share one ball and take alternate shots, which can lead to some apologetic words between colleagues if a poor shot is played.

    SUNDAY SINGLES

    A whopping 12 points are up for grabs on the final day of the competition as all 24 competitors go head-to-head in singles matches.

    While the captain determines who features on Friday and Saturday, with some players heavily involved and others lightly used or even left out altogether, every single team member is involved on Sunday.

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