Lee Westwood’s surprising decision to do a complete U-turn and rejoin the PGA Tour next season was inspired by Luke Donald’s rise to world No 1 this year.
Who knows if the rise to world No 2 of US-bound Rory McIlroy has had a bearing too.
The Englishman is now trailing Donald and McIlroy in the world rankings and while he once said he’d rather go on holiday with his family than contest the FedEx Cup play-offs at the end of the summer, he knows that the US is where he has the best chance of keeping pace with the game’s top-two.
“Watching Luke do so well in the FedEx Cup tournaments made me want to try it out, too,” he said on Wednesday.
For those who wonder why McIlroy is contemplating the possibility of missing the Irish Open in favour of the clashing AT&T National at Congressional next season, Westwood could easily have been speaking for the young Ulsterman when he said: “I sat there on my sofa and saw how big the events were. They carry a lot of world ranking points, they look like great courses they play.
“You need fresh approach and change every now and again or else you can get stale. I just fancied it. I’ve been thinking about it for a few months.”
McIlroy and Westwood were controversial absentees from The Players at Sawgrass this year but it now appears certain the former stablemates will be in Jacksonville next May.
“Watching it I felt like ‘I want to be there’,” Westwood said of the game’s unofficial Fifth Major. “It’s a big tournament and I’ve always played well there. Joining gives me the flexibility to play The Players. And I’ll only play about two or so fewer tournaments on the European Tour – Holland and Switzerland, but I’ll return to them in the future.”
As for the FedEx Cup play-offs, he said: “It just made sense with Ryder Cup year. I have a two-year exemption because of Memphis and it made sense to use it.”
Ruling out the possibility of buying a US base, he added: “I know I said, I’d rather go holiday with the kids [than play the FedEx Cup], but looking at the schedule this year I can still do that. Everything slots in nicely. I’m going to see how it goes… just test the water and hopefully play well.”