European stars make divergent plans for 2011 in wake of Ryder Cup win

Getty Images
Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood won't be spending as much time together in 2011.
By
Mark Garrod
PA Sport

Series:

Lee Westwood will not be joining the PGA Tour next year, but fellow Ryder Cup star Graeme McDowell is planning to head to the United States in 2011.

A week that began with him becoming a Ryder Cup winner for the fifth time in seven matches will end with Westwood deposing Tiger Woods if he can finish first or second at the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, which starts on Thursday. But, whether he achieves that goal or not, the 37-year-old from Worksop, England, is putting family first and turning his back on the fortunes on offer in America.

Jim Furyk, for instance, earned more than $11 million for winning the FedExCup playoffs a fortnight ago, but it simply does not interest Westwood.

"The FedExCup sits right in the middle of the kids' summer holidays and I like going on holiday with them,” said Westwood, one of nine Ryder Cup heroes playing this week. "I don't want to be dictated to by having to go to America to play FedExCup when it doesn't really mean that much to me.

"It doesn't mean enough to me anyway,” he stressed. "I think they (the PGA Tour) would like me to go and be a member there, but as of Monday evening I became an individual again and I do what's right for Lee Westwood now."

It was a conversation with manager Andrew 'Chubby' Chandler that settled things in his mind.

"Chubby said, 'why take up membership in the States when you've been the most successful player in the world this year and (despite a seven-week injury layoff) still have a great chance to go to world No. 1? You've come second in two major championships, you must be doing something right, why not stick to the same schedule?'

"I don't want to get into a situation where I have to play events in America just to make up 15," added Westwood, referring to the minimum requirement for PGA Tour members.

McDowell, who claiming the winning point for Europe at Celtic Manor on Monday, is happy to take up PGA Tour membership, though. The 30-year-old is single and was a member earlier in his career.

"I am joining the U.S. Tour. I want to give it a go,” he said. "I got my card in 2006 but I got injured right at the start of that season and I never got the chance to experience it.

"I want to give it a go next year because it's not a Ryder Cup year and I'd like to try the FedEx playoffs, although I wasn't particularly impressed by the format this year,” he explained. “I felt it was too volatile and didn't really reward consistent golfers on the PGA Tour.

"It was very much, if you go in there and have a great playoff series you can win the whole lot and I think that's a little bit unfair. But I certainly do want to go out and play a little bit more golf out there."

His Celtic Manor partner Rory McIlroy, who joined the American circuit this season and won in May, says he will continue to play both tours, but intends to play fewer events.

"I'm going to look to play 25 events or less next year, definitely," said the 21-year-old, who with six more to come this season will have played 28 in 2010. Which ones go remains to be seen.

Now a complete convert to the Ryder Cup after calling it "just an exhibition" last year, McIlroy filmed some of the post-match party to add to his memories. And he joked that he thought Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson "combine better as a table tennis team than golfers!"

Meanwhile, ending the latest five-year reign of Woods would be a remarkable achievement for Westwood, who reached fourth in the rankings nine years ago but then slumped outside the top 250 and feared there might be no way back. It reached its nadir with rounds of 81 and 79 for 136th place in the 2003 Portuguese Open.

"If somebody had said then that I was going to have a chance to go to No. 1, I would have treated it with a fair amount of skepticism," he added. "But golf is a strange thing. Why not? I went from fourth to 250th, why not be able to go the other way? I'm quite a positive thinker, but I'm obviously in a better position than I would have ever dreamt back there."

The last European to be No. 1 was Nick Faldo in 1994, and Westwood would join Ian Woosnam, Fred Couples and David Duval in achieving it without winning a major.

They all went on to do so -- in Woosnam's case just a week later at the Masters -- and after coming in third in the last two majors of last season, runner-up at Augusta in April and second again at The Open in July, Westwood is hoping his turn will come.

He decided not to play a practice round on Wednesday in order to get more rest after his exertions at Celtic Manor -- and the celebrations that followed, of course.

Asked to recount what they were like he said: "I wish I could remember."

He does remember, though, losing to Mickelson -- Amy, not Phil -- at table tennis.

"Mentally it's quite hard to refocus after such a big week," he added. "Physically it's very demanding, but I suppose I was slightly helped out by the fact that it was drawn out over four days and it was only four rounds (rather than the usual five)."

The world ranking system is such that if he took the next two weeks off -- he defends the Portugal Masters next week -- he would automatically dethrone Woods.

"That's not me," he stated. "That's not the way I want to do it. I want to get to world No. 1 by playing the way I have for the last two years and proving I'm the best."