A concerned Lee Westwood suffered a recurrence of his calf injury on Thursday, but is expected to continue his bid to replace Tiger Woods as world No. 1 at St. Andrews on Friday.
Three days after enjoying another Ryder Cup victory, Westwood hurt himself a third of the way into his opening round of the European Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at Kingsbarns.
The 37-year-old battled on to score a 2-under-par 70, only four behind leaders Martin Laird, Thomas Bjorn, Ricardo Gonzalez and Maarten Lafeber, but immediately went off for treatment and to speak to his physical trainer Steve McGregor.
At that point he expressed genuine fears that he might be advised to pull out of the event and take another extended break -- the Ryder Cup was his first competitive golf since Aug. 6 -- but word came from his management company later that he had been told it was okay to carry on.
"I felt it coming off the seventh tee," said Westwood, who needs a top-2 finish on Sunday to end Woods' reign. "It was a really steep downslope and it's really aching now, like I'm doing too much too soon.
"Playing two weeks in a row was probably too much in hindsight, I should have gone back to rehab. I don't want to get back to where it was. It improved a lot, but it's still not right,” he explained. "I can't load my right side. I just want to get off it as quickly as possible. I've got my compression and ice machine with me and I'll see the guys in the Tour physio unit, then give Steve a ring.
"I was playing great before the injury and I've not had a chance to practice. That's frustrating in itself. I'm just not able to work hard,” he said. "I was advised not to flog myself last week and although I didn't have to play five games it was four on a hilly, heavy course. Steve said it wouldn't be right for six months. I don't want to be stupid, that's the problem. I made a mistake going to the Bridgestone."
He pulled out on the second day in Akron, where he also had an opportunity to dethrone Woods.
"I should have stopped after the Open. I didn't rest it when I should have done,” he stressed. "It's difficult because I've never been injured before and don't know how careful I've got to be, but if it had happened yesterday I would have pulled out.
"I think Steve would like me to take a rest. If I keep coming back and it's not right and all I can do is rehab away from the course I don't think I'm being fair to myself, to be honest,” he said. "All the biggest tournaments this year have gone. I missed the fourth biggest (the PGA Championship), I got back for the Ryder Cup and didn't let anybody down. "The most important thing is to be right physically for The Masters (next April)."
Because of how the world ranking system works over a rolling two-year cycle, Westwood would have been certain to dethrone Woods if he had withdrawn and then missed his defense of the Portugal Masters next week. By playing on, his task is harder, but he had commented on the eve of the tournament: "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."