The overnight resurrection of Lee Westwood’s golf game was impressive right up until the final 2 feet of Hazeltine National Golf Club’s 7,548-yard Ryder Cup layout.
With a chance for Europe to steal half a point with its least impressive pairing of the tournament, Westwood pushed a 2-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole as he and Danny Willett lost to J.B. Holmes and Ryan Moore 1-up in their Saturday afternoon four-ball match. The U.S. leads 9 ½-6 ½.
An all-square finish seemed a formality with the Americans in with a par and Willett and Westwood studying a gimme putt set up by Westwood’s pinpoint second shot on the par-4 finishing hole.
Westwood had made birdie putts of 30 and 20 feet earlier in the match, but he and Willett struggled with the short ones down the stretch. Willett hit his approach on 18 to within 12 feet from a fairway bunker, but missed the putt.
“This is that little bit extra [pressure],” Willett said. “It’s a shame with two great golf shots in there [on 18], we put the pressure on and couldn’t capitalize.”
After making four birdies in a six-hole stretch, Westwood missed a three-footer for birdie that would have won the 14th hole. Then he missed a four-footer for par to lose the 17th hole and give Holmes and Moore their first lead of the day.
The Willett-Westwood pairing seemed odd considering each had played only one session and lost 5 and 4 with other partners Friday. After losing 5 and 4 with Westwood playing poorly, Ryder Cup rookie Thomas Pieters went 3-0 with Rory McIlroy.
Westwood’s game was so bad Friday morning that the 10-time Ryder Cup veteran went to team captain and close friend Darren Clarke to ask him not to play him in the next two sessions.
“He was man enough to tell me, ‘Darren, I’m not playing [Friday] afternoon. I need to go and work on my game,’ ” Clarke said. “He said, ‘I’ll hit some more balls [Saturday morning] and I’ll be ready in the afternoon if you want me to play.”
The Willett-Westwood duo was surprisingly ready. They didn’t trail for 16 holes even as Holmes was racking up seven birdies. Willett and Westwood each had four birdies, but, like so many missed opportunities in majors, Westwood’s putter failed him in the end.