‘Playing right now is draining’: Lee Westwood lifts lid on battling back from Covid and reveals he still struggles to get ‘much air into my lungs’… but he remains in the hunt at Dubai Desert Classic
- Lee Westwood contracted Covid in December and is still feeling the effects
- The Englishman is vaccinated but had to abandon training for several weeks
- The 49-year-old is asthmatic and has had trouble breathing after Covid
- Westwood carded 69 in first two rounds of the Dubai Desert Classic
Lee Westwood looked exhausted as he emerged from the recording area after signing for a second successive 69 that has left him well-placed at the halfway stage of the Dubai Desert Classic.
His fatigue had little to do with the fact that his 49th birthday is coming up in April. ‘I really don’t feel like I’m getting much air into my lungs at the moment,’ admitted the Englishman, who is asthmatic. ‘Playing right now is draining.’
Westwood caught Covid last December, and, with his underlying symptoms, is still feeling the effects. ‘Let’s just say I’m glad I’m vaccinated,’ he said.
Lee Westwood caught Covid in December 2021 and he still feeling the impact of the virus
‘I had a long spell where I just didn’t feel like doing anything and all my gym work went out of the window. When I played in Abu Dhabi last week it was the first time I’d walked 18 holes for over three months.’
Now embarking on his 29th season on the European Tour, he is still comfortably ranked among the world’s top 50.
Only he can say whether his decision to turn down the Ryder Cup captaincy had anything to do with a mind-numbing financial proposal to join the Saudi bandwagon in 2023 but there is plenty to support his public offering that his decision is all about wanting to continue for as long as he can as a player.
The 49-year-old is vaccinated but admitted he struggles to get air into his lungs
On a beefed-up Emirates course where straight driving gets its reward, Westwood called upon his greatest strength over the years to help ward off the waves of tiredness to be placed inside the top 10 after two rounds, five strokes behind the leader, South African Justin Harding, on 11 under.
A classic weekend at this iconic event is in prospect with the inimitable Tyrrell Hatton leading an impressive UK challenge, moving into second place on nine under following a 66. He looks in the mood to make amends for his 18th hole antics in Abu Dhabi.
Tucked in behind him is Rory McIlroy, whose play off the tee is so good right now he makes even a 66 look about the limit of what he should score. Alongside him is the renaissance man Richard Bland, and then come Westwood, Tommy Fleetwood, Sam Horsfield and defending champion Paul Casey.
This is the last European Tour event for Casey’s highly-regarded caddie John McLaren before he takes a long sabbatical.
Westwood said the lingering effect of Covid was making playing golf an ordeal for him
However, the Englishman carded two consecutive rounds of 69 in Dubai this week
Known affectionately as ‘Johnnie Long Socks’ on account of his attire, flying back and forth across the Atlantic during the pandemic has taken its toll on McLaren, who has two young children.
After six years with former world No 1 Luke Donald and then the same stretch with Casey, he has been at the forefront of golf life on tour and known plenty of good times.
His favourite moment was not the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, surprisingly enough, where he had a ringside seat as Donald played a key role in the unfolding of the miracle.
‘The Olympic Games last year was the highlight,’ he said. ‘The way we were treated, to see what it meant to so many athletes. It was magical.’