Lee Westwood added an unexpected twist to his U.S. Open preparation by getting married in Las Vegas last week.
The ceremony consisted of Westwood, his fiancée/caddy Helen Storey, a minister called Wilf and a photographer who doubled as the witness.
The natural progression would be to have their honeymoon in San Diego. They were already headed here for the U.S. Open, so why not?
“Should do, shouldn’t it?” the 48-year-old Westwood said Wednesday. “I keep telling her that, but I think she’s got her eye on somewhere where I don’t take the golf clubs.”
No one wants a working honeymoon.
The Englishman arrived at Torrey Pines seeking his first major championship after a few close calls.
Helen will be on the bag, providing yardages, keeping him the right frame of mind, occasionally arguing with him about club choice.
“She can’t really comment too much, although she does now and again,” Westwood said. “She starts to over-caddie and tell me what club she thinks it is, but mentally she’s very good for me.”
The girlfriend/caddy, boyfriend/player relationship has been a solid one since Helen started slinging Westwood’s bag over her shoulder three years ago. A fitness consultant, she helped Westwood develop a regular workout routine, which has helped him remain competitive at 48.
She also keeps him loose on the course. Helen and Westwood don’t always talk golf on the fairways and tees. Sometimes it’s about dinner plans or something else that keeps him from grinding too hard.
The results have been impressive.
Westwood won for the first time in four years at the 2018 Nedbank Challenge with Helen on the bag, tied for fourth at the 2019 Open Championship and was 13th in last year’s U.S. Open. He won the 2020 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and has finished second twice this year, at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship.
Westwood has been a stalwart on the European Ryder Cup team, winning 44 matches while making 10 consecutive appearances, and is in the running to be captain for the 2023 matches in Rome.
Until then, he still figures to be competitive, even as he closes in on 50. Phil Mickelson proved it can be done last month at the PGA Championship, becoming the oldest player to win a major championship at 50.
“I know when my game’s there, it’s still world class, and I’m still going to have a chance in the big tournaments against the best fields,” Westwood said. “It just doesn’t happen as regularly.”
Westwood is hoping to conjure up some more magic at Torrey Pines, where he’s played well in the past.
Playing in the final group with Tiger Woods in 2008, Westwood had a chance to join a playoff with Rocco Mediate after hitting his approach shot to about 15 feet on the par-5 18th. Westwood hit a good putt, but the poa annua greens at Torrey Pines get bumpy late in the day and the ball didn’t take the break he expected.
Woods followed with one of the greatest putts in golf history, sinking a 12-footer for birdie to force a playoff with Mediate. Woods went on to win his 14th major the next day – playing with a torn ACL and two stress fractures, no less – while Westwood headed home dejected.
“That’s one of the loudest cheers I’ve ever heard on the golf course,” he said. “Then got out of here, up to L.A. and flew home. Just got home in time for the playoff.”
Woods won’t be at Torrey Pines. He’s still recovering from a car crash in February.
Westwood is back and most of what he remembers is the same except one thing: the rough.
The kikuyu rough was tough in 2008, but this year’s version is denser and a bit more gnarled, particularly around the greens. Hitting fairways will be a top priority. So will trying to figure out shots in grass around the greens that makes shoes and golf balls disappear.
“Don’t panic,” Westwood said. “Everybody is going to go out there and make a couple of bogeys and try not to make a string of them and get on a run. Just be very patient and approach it one shot, one hole at a time, really.”
Westwood has the perfect person on his bag to help him get through it.
A win would be a perfect wedding gift. Then they can officially go on a honeymoon.