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Dublin: 1 °C Tuesday 22 January, 2019

McIlroy persuaded to play 'over glasses of wine' - Westwood

The world number six had to seek an invitation into the British Masters.

Lee Westwood (file pic).
Lee Westwood (file pic).

Updated at 16.53

TOURNAMENT HOST LEE Westwood said he enticed Rory McIlroy to play at this week’s British Masters while at Sergio Garcia’s wedding, over a “couple of glasses of wine”.

After Ian Poulter hosted the 2015 event and Luke Donald greeted his colleagues a year ago, this year it is Westwood’s turn hosting the event at Close House.

The 2007 winner has long been attached to the club located near Newcastle, in north-east England.

McIlroy’s decision to compete in the event, a tournament he made his professional debut at in 2007, came as a surprise to most observers given for many weeks the Northern Irishman indicated he would contest only the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship following the end of the PGA Tour season.

However, McIlroy did not count on missing out on his defence of last week’s Tour Championship.

The world number six had to seek an invitation into the British Masters, having missed the three-week cut-off point for entering the £3 million tournament.

“I just got them all drunk and asked them when they were drunk. No, I didn’t, but that would work for me,” said Westwood, laughing.

“I had asked Sergio over a year ago and he said yes, delighted to. Obviously I got on with Sergio well for many years and played with him in the Ryder Cup.

I then asked Rory at Sergio’s wedding, when we added a couple glasses of wine and said if he didn’t get to the Tour Championship, because he’d been playing a lot in the lead-up to this and he was playing in the Dunhill as well…

“So, when Rory didn’t get into the Tour Championship he committed pretty much straightaway after that.

I don’t know if he’s playing Italy (Italian Open) now. Maybe he’s taken that out. I know he’s been struggling with his game, or so people tell me but he’s set pretty high standards for himself.

“Rory is one of the few players in the world that I would turn out at a golf tournament to watch, the people that you love watching and getting up close.

He’s one of the best players in the world. And the likes of Alex Noren who is defending champion, and Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Matt Fitzpatrick, Chris Wood, all these people supporting the event is obviously brilliant.

“It’s one of the strongest fields we’ve had all year on Tour, I think.”

The event boasts two of the world’s top 10 in McIlroy and Garcia, while defending champion Alex Noren is currently number 14 in the world rankings.

© – AFP 2017

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