Wrapped and ready to go
Westwood, Britain’s best hope, prepared to battle Old Course on one healthy leg
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Any other week, the British Open buzz would be all about Lee Westwood.
He’s No. 3 in the world, with top-three finishes at three of the last four major championships.
Better yet, he’s actually won on the Old Course (OK, so it was the Dunhill Links), making him Britain’s best chance to snap that decade-long oh-fer streak at its own Open.
But Westwood’s right leg is being held together with tape and wraps this week after he ruptured a muscle in his calf, making his prospects at St. Andrews uncertain, to say the least.
“These things happen. You can’t control when they happen,” Westwood said after playing a six-hole practice “round” Monday. “It’s frustrating that it’s the Open Championship. But I’m hitting the ball well, feel like I’m very comfortable on these greens.
“So, you know, I’m still hoping for a good week.”
Few players have been better than Westwood recently, and it seems only a matter of time before the 37-year-old from Worksop, England, sheds that dreaded “best player never to win a major” title.
He’s been in contention at each of the four majors at least once, including finishing second at this year’s Masters and tying for third at Turnberry and the PGA last year.
He may not have been in contention at Pebble Beach, but a tie for 16th at the U.S. Open is a more-than-respectable finish.
After top-20 finishes in all but three of his 14 starts this year, including his second PGA Tour win at St. Jude’s, the British Open seemed to set up almost perfectly for him.
Though Westwood has never finished better than a tie for 64th at a British Open at St. Andrews, he won the Dunhill Links here in 2003.
“I’ve played well here in the past, obviously played well last year, and I’ve been looking forward to this week for quite some time,” Westwood said. “There’s a rich history to the golf tournament, especially when it’s held at St. Andrews.”
That’s what makes his injury so disappointing — though Westwood knows it could have been far worse.
While at the French Open two weeks ago, his right calf swelled so badly doctors initially feared the 37-year-old might have a blood clot. Further tests showed he had instead ruptured the plantaris muscle, which runs down the calf.
“Apparently it’s six to eight weeks recovery time if you put your feet up. But, obviously, with the biggest tournament on the calendar this week, I can’t really afford to do that,” Westwood said. “It’s just a case of managing it, strapping it up, trying to keep the swelling from getting any worse and playing as well as I can.”
Westwood said he has no idea what caused the injury, other than playing professional golf for 17 years. But it might explain the aching Achilles’ he’d had the last eight months.
The plantaris goes all the way down to the ankle, and he thinks he might have mistaken the deteriorating muscle for Achilles’ pain.
Rest is the only real cure for the injury, but doctors have told Westwood he won’t cause further damage by playing.
“I’m still pretty confident,” he said. “Mentally, I’m feeling fresh and think by Thursday, I’ll be ready to go.”
Reminded that Padraig Harrington won the 2008 British Open with a wrist so sore the Irishman wasn’t even sure he’d be able to start the tournament, Westwood smiled.
“That’s the old saying, isn’t it? ‘Beware the injured golfer,’” he said. “Hopefully that will ring true.”
Lee Westwood enters the British Open at St. Andrews with a ruptured plantaris in his right calf. But he’s reminded that Padraig Harrington won the 2008 British Open with an extremely painful wrist. ‘Beware the injured golfer,’ Westwood warns.