LEE WESTWOOD is battling to overcome a severe case of pre-Ryder Cup nerves — his son’s!
Sam, 19, will be caddying for Westwood at Whistling Straits, with the player’s wife Helen taking her place among the European Wags.
Lee and Sam are believed to be the first father-and-son combination to team up at a Ryder Cup.
And Westwood, 48, revealed his son’s “knees are knocking” at the prospect, even though he has caddied for his dad at The Masters.
Worksop wonder Westy said: “Forget The Masters, this is on a totally different scale.
“Sam is as nervous as a kitten and I think this is going to be a rare case of a player trying to keep his caddie calm. But he’ll be fine once I’ve hit my first shot.
“It’s been a welcome distraction for me and an added incentive — not that you need one at a Ryder Cup. After all, what dad doesn’t want to impress his son?”
Helen has her own army of fans in the States.
American broadcasters were clamouring to get her on chat shows after she carried the bag when Westwood finished runner-up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship earlier this year.
The shouts directed at her have been almost universally flattering, although that might change this week with boozed-up American fans ready to hurl abuse at everyone in the European ranks.
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But Helen insists that did not play any part in her decision not to caddie in golf’s ultimate team event, which begins on Friday.
She said: “From my point of view, I’ve already got the golden ticket that we get as wives and partners.
“And with the travel restrictions that are in place, Sam probably wouldn’t have been there to watch Lee this week.
“It’s a great achievement for Lee to become the oldest player ever to actually qualify from either side and it’s something we want to share.
“And who knows, the way he’s been playing he might even qualify for Rome in 2023. If he does, I’ll definitely caddie there.”
Westwood is regarded as a certainty to be handed the captaincy for Rome and has already thrown his hat in the ring.
But he would happily wait a while longer if he continues to prove he is among the 12 best golfers in Europe — especially after being crowned European No 1 for the third time just nine months ago.
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The world No 35 said: “Everyone was writing me off when I failed to make the team in 2018. But I’ve proved them wrong once, so who knows?
“If I qualified again for 2023, I’d definitely want to play. You don’t just pass up the chance to play Ryder Cups, because it is such an incredible career highlight for any golfer.”
Westwood will need to rediscover his early-season sparkle if he is to add a few more clips to his personal highlights reel in Wisconsin this week.
But even though he has not had a top-20 finish in the last six months, he insists that spark is not far away.
He explained: “The problem recently was that once I got close to making the team, I tossed away my original schedule and played far too much golf chasing qualifying points.
“This latest resurgence of mine has been down to careful planning — picking and choosing the tournaments and courses I expect to play my best at and not overdoing it.
“That was out of necessity — I’m 48, not 28! That policy went out the window as the race for places on the team got tighter and then my form suffered.
“But I’m still hitting the ball great. And even though my results haven’t reflected that recently, there have still been plenty of good rounds thrown in, just not four of them together.
“And the good thing about what we’re facing this week is that you don’t pay such a big penalty for the odd bad hole in match play.
“I know I can make my share of birdies and win my share of holes.
“If I can cut down on the silly mistakes and not give holes away cheaply, I think I could have a week to remember.”