He was the unquestioned leader of the European Ryder Cup team and its week-long MVP. He also is now the No. 2-ranked player in the world and an odds-on favorite to take the No. 1 spot away from Tiger Woods in the near future.
Lee Westwood has never been a bigger star, had a higher profile or gotten more respect from fans around the world. And he won’t be taking a PGA Tour membership next year. He’ll play in the United States, he says, only for the majors and the World Golf Championships and perhaps an occasional event in connection with those.
For 2011, Westwood told Graham Otway of The Associated Press, he’ll put his family first and remain based in Europe. Ryder Cup hero Graeme McDowell, the U.S. Open champion, did accept his PGA Tour card for the second half of 2010 and said he’ll play the Tour next year, but Westwood won’t. The $10 million FedEx Cup doesn’t entice the 37-year-old Westwood in the least.
“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?
“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. 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. As of Monday evening in Wales I became an individual again, and I do what’s right for Lee Westwood now.”
Tiger Woods has been No. 1 for 278 straight weeks, but Westwood could change that this week. He’s playing in the Dunhill Links Championship and he’ll move up to No. 1 if he finishes in a three-way tie for second or better. If he succeeds, he’ll be only the third player to be No.1 without having won a major. Fred Couples ascended to No. 1 in 1992 before he won the Masters and David Duval reached the top spot in ’99 before he won the British Open in 2001.
Westwood can also reach No. 1 if he has top 20-finishes at the Dunhill and the following week in the Portugal Masters.
Should Westwood play more in the U.S. next year? There aren’t any compelling reasons to do so. He’s got all the money he needs. He may find it more difficult to earn world-ranking points playing in European Tour fields of slightly lesser quality (based on ranking points), but his appearances in the majors and WGC events will help make up for that. Any money he might be passing up in the FedEx Cup, he can easily make up in appearance fees playing in China or the Middle East.
Stay home, Lee. We wish you were here more but you’re making a smart move. Kooch keeps going and going and goingWhat’s wrong with the professional golf schedule is Matt Kuchar’s last three months. Kuchar will have played 11 of the last 13 weeks, counting this week’s McGladrey Classic, which is being played in Sea Island, Ga., where he recently moved. So it’s a home game, but, still, that’s a lot of golf.
Kuchar told Garry Smits of The Florida Times-Union that he’s running on fumes this week.
“Am I tired? Yeah, you could say that,” Kuchar said at his locker at the Sea Island Club on Wednesday as he pulled his golf shoes on for the McGladrey Classic pro-am that would be his 47th round, counting competition and pro-ams, in the past 98 days.
But Kuchar said he never considered withdrawing, despite it being his 11th tournament in 13 weeks. After all, this is a home game for him now. Kuchar’s schedule was heavy because he was chasing the FedEx Cup championship, which ended at the Tour Championship in Atlanta on Sept. 26 when Jim Furyk’s clutch par on the last hole gave him the tournament victory and the FedEx Cup. Kuchar tied for 25th to finish second in points.
Kuchar then played four matches in the Ryder Cup last week in Wales, going 1-1-2, a commendable record for a Ryder Cup rookie.
Kuchar moved his family from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., to the island and had been in temporary quarters until Wednesday, when they spent their first night in their new home.
No matter how he plays this week, his 2010 season will be a huge success, and the year Kuchar finally arrived as a star after a glorious college and amateur career that included the 1997 U.S. Amateur title.
This week will be the final start of the season for Kuchar, and he and his family deserve a break. It’s his 26th start and he’s going for his 12th top-10 finish and third victory. Kuchar missed only two cuts this season (the last in the Wells Fargo Championship on May 2) and is the Tour leader in scoring average (69.59).
“Consistency is the something we strive for, as golfers,” Kuchar said. “I think this really was the hallmark, the trademark for me this year.”
He won on the Tour less than four years after his graduation, but then he went seven years before his next victory.
“Matt was one of those guys that everybody was thinking, ‘When is he going to play better,'” Davis Love III said. “They’ve expected so much of him at a young age. … They’re waiting for him to have a year like this year. He’s a very confident, fun-loving, excited guy, and he finally got a little bit more confidence and ran with it.”
Last one leaving the McGladrey Classic, turn out the lightsYou probably don’t know much about this week’s McGladrey Classic. It’s a new event on the PGA Tour’s fall schedule and it’s being played on one of the courses at the Sea Island Cub. Oddly, even though it’s something of a landmark, having been around since the late 1920s, the club is in bankruptcy.
The Tour’s visit this week happens just before an auction Monday that will determine its fate, reports Garry Smits in The Florida-Times Union. That’s more than just curious, hosting a PGA Tour event on a course that’s in bankruptcy, and maybe representative of the prevailing sense of desperation–on the part of those trying to save Sea Island and on the part of the PGA Tour, trying to fill its slowly shrinking tournament schedule.
The club and its golf-course properties, which are in bankruptcy, will be sold to one of two groups that are actually two companies joining forces in each case: Starwood Capital Group of Greenwich, Conn., joined by Anschutz Entertainment Group of Los Angeles; vs. Oaktree Capital Management of Los Angeles and Avenue Capital Group of New York City.
The Starwood Capital Group is not affiliated with Starwood Resorts. Anschutz Entertainment owns the Los Angeles Kings of the NHL.
Tournament host and Sea Island Club board member Davis Love III said there’s a feeling of wanting closure with the process of rescuing the club and its facilities.
“I think it’s time for it to just come to a close,” he said Wednesday before playing in the pro-am at the Seaside Course.
Love said the Jones family, which owns the club, and current management have worked hard to keep it afloat since financial problems began in 2007. “A lot of people would have walked away from dealing with this process,” he said. “They put a whole lot of effort into it without a whole lot of personal gain. They’re doing the right thing for this community, for this company, for the history of the company.”