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Top European Scorer: Westwood can take Poulter's title as Mr Ryder Cup

Experienced - Lee Westwood has played in every Ryder Cup since 1997
Experienced - Lee Westwood has played in every Ryder Cup since 1997
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Europe's talisman Ian Poulter isn't playing this time - but Ralph Ellis says there's another Englishman who can inspire Darren Clarke's team...


"Even if you think that in-form Rory McIlroy will justify his position as [4.5] favourite to be Europe’s flag bearer, there’s value in backing Westwood at [5.3] to be the Top English Scorer."

I was thinking it just won't be the Ryder Cup without Ian Poulter. Yes, I know he's there in Hazeltine this week as a vice captain, and no doubt he'll play a huge role behind the scenes in the team room. But the eyes bulging, fist pumping, sheer love of competing in a team won't be on show.

I followed him round at Celtic Manor in 2010 when he and Ross Fisher were taking on Tiger Woods (and Steve Stricker) and it was a wonderful close-quarters insight into how much he lives and breathes the competition. He looked devastated when he lost and I wasn't at all surprised that he then stitched three wins together.

So I was thinking about how much I'd miss him. And then it occurred to me that, while Poulter has acquired the title of "Mr Ryder Cup" for his exploits, he isn't actually the man who should be most synonymous with the current European team.

Compared to Lee Westwood, in fact, Poulter is still an absolute beginner. I was lucky enough to be sent to Valderrama back in 1997 to watch Seve's team win the tournament and it was there, of course, that Westwood made his debut. He actually helped Nick Faldo to secure the win that set a new individual record of 25 points.

There have been eight more editions of Samuel Ryder's famous old trophy since, and Westwood has been in Europe's team for every one of them. Not only has he always been in the team, he's consistently scored points. This weekend he needs just two more to equal Faldo's mark - anything more and he'll be, quite rightly, out on his own.

So there are good sentimental reasons to support him at [14.5] to be Europe's top scorer over this weekend. But just because the heart should be happy to put that bet on, it doesn't mean the head can't back it too.

As Paul Krishnamurty has explained in his excellent analysis of this market, Europe's six rookies are unlikely to play lots of games. The experienced guys will be easing them in. But where we differ is that I think Westwood, despite his 43 years, will have the stamina - even if it is fuelled by adrenalin - to play at least three matches plus his singles.

When I was talking to Oliver Wilson for the Betfair Big Interview I was fascinated to learn that it was Westwood who rang him after he'd qualified in 2008 to tell him what to expect. The guy is a leader, a man who wants his team mates to do well, and he'll be the perfect partner for any of the new boys across the challenging three days as Europe aim on American soil to continue their winning streak.

Even if you think that in-form Rory McIlroy will justify his position as [4.5] favourite to be Europe's flag bearer, there's value in backing Westwood at [5.3] to be the Top English Scorer. (Justin Rose is [2.68] favourite).

His recent form is not so bad, even if he hasn't matches the quality that made him runner-up in the Masters earlier this year. He finished fourth in the European Masters and though he missed the cut in the Italian Open two weeks later he was actually one under par after the first two rounds.

So this week my money's on Westwood. Poulter? Love him, but he's yesterday's man!


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