Lee Westwood has a good record of success in Scotland with two of his 25 European Tour wins coming at the Home of Golf nation.
The now 47-year old was also runner-up in the 2010 Open Championship at St. Andrews and represented England in four straight Alfred Dunhill Cup encounters from 1996, held also at the Old Cours, while he was a proud member of Paul McGinley’s victorious 2014 European Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles.
Westwood loved Scotland so much, he married a Scot, the sister to Andrew Coltart while the now divorced Westwood, up until 18 months ago, was a resident of Edinburgh.
However, he returns this week to St. Andrews under different circumstances and having to stay in the ‘bubble’ of the 5-star Fairmont Resort, the host venue for the inaugural Scottish Championship on the eastern outskirts of the Auld Grey Toon.
Westwood is no stranger to probably one of most famous pubs to be found lying beside a championship golf course, that being the Jigger Inn.
The building dates back to the 1850s when it was the stationmaster’s lodge, and the history and heritage live on. Today, the Jigger Inn is home to golfing memorabilia, crackling open-hearth fires, home-cooked food and a superb selection of Scottish and international beers.
I know, as I spent many a time breasting the bar!
The famed Jigger Inn has always been a great ‘watering hole’ for Westwood as his former management company, ISM used to rent out the Inn for the week of The Open in entertaining corporate guests.
Westwood was asked what it will be like not being able to wander around St. Andrews given all players, caddies, officials and media must remain within the ‘bubble’.
“There’s definitely something missing, but something is always going to be – we’re living in strange times so you can’t have it all the way you want it,” said Westwood.
“This is a new normal. There’s no going into the town, or into the Jigger for a pint. You turn up, test, pass, go into the hotel, practice, go to the gym, there are other ways of occupying your time which are probably more beneficial to members of the Tour than going for a pint.
“It’s clinical. No crowds to create that atmosphere but needs must in certain cases.”
Westwood will tee-up in his eighth event since the European Tour’s return to competition and he was also asked how he was coping with the ‘clinical’ conditions.
“There are worse places to be and people are suffering a lot more than staying in a five star hotel, being in a suite every night and playing golf during the day, so we shouldn’t complain too much,” he said.
“I think four weeks will be my limit of playing tournaments when I’m in a bubble. People are talking about comparing Europe with the US and their bubble is far less restrictive. Over there it’s just playing a golf tournament with no crowds.
“You pass a test on Monday and that’s about it really. You’re not restricted with who you mix with or where you go, you can go to restaurants or to the gym. It’s far more restrictive on this Tour, hence why we’ve had so few positive cases.
“I think we’ve had two cases in 10-11,000 tests. We’re doing a good job of controlling it and it’s clearly what needed to happen – I wish everybody else could show as much discipline as the European Tour and its members have done.”
It was a good point Westwood raised and it led to him being asked if he was surprised by news World No.1 Dustin Johnson is now the 16th PGA Tour player to test positive for the COVID-19 virus.
“Not really. It was bound to happen. Even if you put as many measures in place or are as self-aware as you could possibly be there are still ways of picking it up,” Westwood said.
“You have to be constantly on your guard. You only have to let it down a little bit and you could pick it up from anything – when you fill your car up with petrol or go to a cash machine.
“Fair play to DJ for letting them know he had symptoms and making them aware as quickly as he could. It’s going to happen.”