HAVEN, Wisconsin — When Lee Westwood was informed during a radio interview ahead of this week’s 43rd Ryder Cup that he is the oldest player in the history of the biennial competition to represent the European side, he cracked, “That makes me feel young. Maybe I’ll bring a walker to Whistling Straits.”
During his pre-Ryder Cup press conference, Westwood’s age quickly emerged as a topic of conversation.
“I’m not old, I’m 48,” he bristled. “Can we use the word mature? No, actually mature doesn’t apply to me, either.”
At his advanced age as far as Ryder Cup competitors, Westwood is in fact twice as old as his teammate Viktor Hovland of Norway, who celebrated his 24th birthday last week.
“It makes me proud of my longevity really,” Westwood said. “Week in, week out I play with somebody that’s the same age as my son (Sam, who is caddying for his father this week) now. I’m pretty much used to that. The fact that it was his 24th birthday was a little bit surprising, but I made my Ryder Cup debut in 1997 when I was 24.”
— Lee Westwood (@WestwoodLee) September 21, 2021
Westwood qualified for his 11th Ryder Cup, tying the record held by fellow Englishman Nick Faldo. Westwood has been on the winning side seven times, but his last appearance in 2016 didn’t go well. As a captain’s pick by his good pal Darren Clarke, Westwood went 0-3 at Hazeltine as his putter betrayed him. Westwood said it took a couple of days to recover from the defeat at the hands of the Americans and the role he played in that result.
In 2018, Westwood served as a vice captain and it looked as if his playing days might be over. But then he won the Race to Dubai in 2020 and nearly won back-to-back tournaments on the PGA Tour at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship, finishing second and third, respectively. Westwood has cooled off of late but earned an automatic bid to Harrington’s team.
“As the years go on and you get a little bit older, you don’t know whether you’re going to play Ryder Cup again,” he said. “I said to the lads in the team room three years ago, I said, ‘There’s one thing worse than playing Ryder Cup practice rounds, and that’s watching somebody else do it.’ It does give you a taste that you want to still be involved. So, it’s nice to not be watching somebody else do it and doing it myself again.”
That also means he’ll have to endure taunts from a partisan crowd hoping that Team USA can bring home the Cup. Asked to recall the worst name he’s been called by overzealous fans, Westwood remembered being called “a turd” at Hazeltine in 2016.
“Which is the first time since I was about 12 years old of age at the playground, so it made me feel young again,” he said.