The Masters: Westwood fright as he survives emergency landing
Lee Westwood was relieved simply to be here yesterday after enduring a frightening ordeal on his journey across from the Houston Open.
The world No 2's private jet was forced to make an emergency landing when smoke billowed through the cockpit.
“We were a couple of minutes out of the airport,” said Westwood. “It was scary. It never looks good when you can smell smoke and you turn round and see the pilots have put their masks on.”
Also on board was Westwood's Ryder Cup team-mate Ross Fisher, the pair's caddies and Westwood's manager, Chubby Chandler.
“The smoke was coming from the cockpit, and they told us later they couldn't drop our masks because they feed oxygen into the cabin, and if there was a fire it would have fanned the flames,” said Westwood.
“The pilots decided to return to the airport immediately and took the plane down in a bit of a nosedive.
“We obviously had to get down as fast as we could. There had been a small fire somewhere in the instruments, and we had the three fire tenders chasing us down the runaway.”
Fortunately the fire was quickly extinguished and another private jet was arranged. After a three-hour wait they eventually took off again, before arriving in Augusta before midnight on Sunday night.
“I was having a bit of a chuckle about it afterwards because I'd come off the 18th green [after finishing joint 30th in Houston] steaming after ripping the ball all day and then sticking my ball in the water on 18,” he said.
“After missing a stack of putts I thought that had was the perfect way to end a rotten day. But it hadn't ended yet.” He added: “I was alright, as I'd been through something like this before in Switzerland. But Ross and Billy [Foster, his caddie] didn't look too good. Billy crossed himself a couple of times and looked terrified when we went into the nosedive.”
Said Foster: “I told them, ‘this is it lads, we're goners’. My hands and knees were shaking.”
The scare didn't stop Westwood — or his caddie — from playing a practice round. He has decided to keep faith with his new putter, despite it misfiring last week.