Wrapped and ready to go

West­wood, Bri­tain’s best hope, pre­pared to bat­tle Old Course on one healthy leg

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTSBRIEFING - By Nancy Ar­mour

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.”

Chris Carl­son

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.

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