ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) — Lee Westwood says he will not take up PGA Tour membership next year, only coming to America for the majors, World Golf Championships and occasional tournaments around them.
The 37-year-old Englishman said Wednesday that he will put his family first in 2011, remaining based in Europe despite a chance to compete for the FedEx Cup and the $10 million bonus.
“Why would you take up membership in the States when you’ve been the most successful player in the world this year?” Westwood said. “When you’ve come in second in two major championships, you must be doing something right. Why not stick to the same schedule?”
U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, the Europe’s hero in the Ryder Cup, took his U.S. card for the second half of the season and says he will play the PGA Tour next year as a member, though not as much as some other Europeans.
Westwood has a chance to end Woods’ 278-week run atop the world ranking by finishing in a three-way tie for second or better at the Dunhill Links Championship, which starts Thursday on three coastline courses with St. Andrews as the host course.
Westwood, a runner-up at the Masters and British Open, could become only the third player to reach No. 1 without having won a major. The others were Fred Couples, who won the Masters a month after reaching No. 1, and David Duval, who was No. 1 in 1999 and captured the British Open two years later.
“I don’t want to get into a situation where I have to play events in America just to make up 15 needed for tour membership,” he said. “The FedEx Cup sits right in the middle of the kids’ summer holidays, and I like going on holiday with them for a couple of weeks.”
Westwood says he has been asked by American officials to join their tour, but after another successful Ryder Cup for Europe, he turned his focus to personal goals.
“As of Monday evening in Wales I became an individual again, and I do what’s right for Lee Westwood now,” he said.
Westwood could reach No. 1 in the world on Nov. 1 if he finishes inside the top 20 at the Dunhill Links Championship and the Portugal Masters next week.
Then comes the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, featuring Westwood, Woods and Phil Mickelson. Even though Westwood is poised to move to No. 1, the question is how long he stays there.
The longest Woods has vacated the No. 1 ranking was 26 weeks in 2004 and 2005 to Vijay Singh.
Choosing to play more in Europe than America in 2011 will make it more difficult for Westwood to remain No. 1 because for most weeks of the year the PGA Tour events carry more ranking points.
The Dunhill Links has a strength-of-field comparable to the AT&T National – 48 points to the winner – with eight other members of the European Ryder Cup team taking part. That includes McDowell, McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Padraig Harrington, Ross Fisher, Peter Hanson, Edoardo Molinari and captain Colin Montgomerie.