Two weeks before the Ryder Cup, Lee Westwood has come through his first 18-hole fitness test with flying colors -- not just physically, but also how he played.
"Never have I been so excited about a Jaguar corporate day," joked the world No. 3 on Wednesday, after a round at Lindrick GC near Sheffield that was his first time on a golf course since his ruptured calf muscle flared up again on Aug. 6. "I was a bit rusty, but I had six birdies and an eagle -- in a 30 mph wind."
Westwood feels as certain as he can that he will not only make his seventh Ryder Cup appearance against the Americans at Celtic Manor, but will play a full part in the match.
His fitness trainer Steve McGregor, who has been supervising his rehabilitation, accompanied the 37-year-old and, despite the "fairly undulating" layout, allowed Westwood to play the first 14 holes on foot before insisting he ride the final four in a golf cart.
The daily workouts will continue before Europe's highest-ranked and most experienced team member plays in a charity event at Archerfield in Scotland next Monday and Tuesday. He plans to walk both rounds there and then will put himself through 36 holes in one day -- the same format as the opening two days of the Ryder Cup -- next Friday.
"That's for my own piece of mind, really," Westwood said. "If the Ryder Cup was a week earlier I would have made it, but coming when it does I could just take my time and ease my way into it.
"The treatment is going to continue through the Ryder Cup and beyond, though,” he explained. "The European Tour have said that Steve can be with me in the week of the match. I want no flare-ups and I want to play a full schedule for the rest of the season."
Westwood has been troubled by his calf all year, but it was on the eve of the French Open at the end of June that things got so bad he was taken to the hospital in Paris. He played that week anyway and, despite the diagnosis of a ruptured plantaris muscle, managed second place in the British Open at St Andrews two weeks later.
At the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational three weeks after that, however, he quit on the second day -- and has not played since.
"When I broke down there, Steve said it would take six to eight weeks if I stopped completely and did the rehabilitation properly,” he said. "The Ryder Cup was eight weeks away and he was 99 percent sure right from the start that I would be all right for it."
Normal layoffs see golfers -- indeed anybody -- put weight on rather than lose it, but Westwood's gym work has led to him losing more than 10 pounds in less than two months.
"I'm lighter, leaner and stronger, fitter than I was before I did the injury,” he said. "The only thing I don't have is competitiveness. But that does not worry me -- the Ryder Cup is completely different. It's match play for starters. If I had a scorecard in my hand, I would expect to need a week to get the scoring back."
He could have used next week's Vivendi Cup in France as a warm-up -- like Padraig Harrington is -- but decided not to.
"There are a few reasons why I didn't want to do that,” he explained. "It's a pro-am format for a start and I just wanted to keep my rehab work up, going to the gym in the mornings."