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  • Alistair Tait

Payback time for Westwood

Lee Westwood is one of two world top 20 players teeing it up in this week’s Honda Classic. Defending champion Sunjae Im is the other. The South Korean, the world's 18th best player, is doing the right thing by defending his title.

Westwood is doing the right thing too, but for another reason. He should be praised for it.

Many of our top players do immense work behind the scenes for charity, through foundations they’ve set up, or junior golf programmes to help promising youngsters develop their skills. Indeed, Westwood has his own eponymous foundation for disadvantaged children, and has done much for junior golf. However, the image of the entitled, selfish male golfer exists for a reason: some of these guys won’t get out of bed unless it suits them. It often takes a nice fat appearance fee to get them to climb on a private jet and travel to, oh, Abu Dhabi, or Dubai, or Saudi Arabia, or Turkey, or Hong Kong, or … well, you get the picture. In short anywhere else where, as Ernie Els once said, they can fill their wheelbarrow.

Nice for some.

Westwood, 19th on the Official World Golf Ranking, has earned his fair share of appearance fee dosh over the years, but he’s teeing it up over the Champions Course at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens not for an appearance fee, but to return a favour. Actually, several favours.

The Englishman is coming off two second place finishes in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship. He left Ponte Vedra and honoured a commitment to son Sam to treat him to two days golf at Augusta National. They played 36 holes the Monday after the Players, and 18 on Tuesday. No wonder Westwood was just a wee bit jaded when he turned up for the Honda Classic.

“I'm a little bit tired, I must admit,” Westwood said. “I feel a little bit drained. My legs are feeling it a little bit. … I've played a lot of golf recently.”

If anyone deserved a week off from playing the 1983 Ryder Cup course it was the man from Worksop, the reigning European number one. He could easily have joined the other 18 world top 20 players who decided to opt out of the Honda, the tournament a causality of being sandwiched between the Players and next week’s World Golf Championship.

Westwood has a long memory, though, and that’s why he’s teeing it up this week. He even opened with a level par 70, not bad considering his preparation.

“I never felt like skipping it or thought about it. I've got a good relationship with Ken Kennerly, tournament director, and he's been kind enough to give me invites in the past. He gave me one for this week but I ended up not needing it through a good finish at Bay Hill.
“I used to live in this area, so I like to come and support this tournament. It means a lot to the area and Jack and Barbara Nicklaus. Yeah, it's nice to support it. It's one of my favourite tournaments of the year, as well. I really enjoy this golf course. I find it a good challenge. There's a lot of shots out there where you've really got to commit and play the shot. I love the challenge of the Bear Trap (holes 15, 16 and 17). It's always a bit blowy, which I like, as well.”

So much for tour pros only being out for number one. Westwood proves not all top pros are selfish youknowwhats with short memories. What’s that old saying about being nice to people on the way up, because they’re more likely to be nice to you on the way back down?

Nice to know players like Lee Westwood have long memories.

#JustSaying: “Today, the American player doesn’t have that strong desire to win any more, he has the strong desire to win all this money.” Ray Floyd speaking in 1989

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