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An Interview With: Lee Westwood

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

ROB JOHNSTON: Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. It is a pleasure to welcome Mr. Lee Westwood to the interview room this morning. As you well know, Lee was runner up at the 2010 Masters Tournament, and the 2010 British Open. He has 31 career victories, and this marks his 12th appearance here at Augusta. Currently, Lee is the No. 2-ranked player in the world and we are certainly delighted to have him with us.

All of us at Augusta National and the Masters Tournament must say, we are all greatly relieved and thankful that you appear to be quite fit after your harrowing flight Sunday night. If you would like to make any opening comments concerning your preparation or the condition of the course, we would welcome it, sir.

LEE WESTWOOD: It's nice to be back. It's always a privilege, really, to come play the Masters in Augusta.

My game is in pretty good shape. I haven't played the back nine this week yet. I played a week last Sunday as a bit of a warm up but it just rained heavily. The maintenance staff had not gotten out on the course so the greens are firm a little slow compared to what they are going to be like this week and as the course dries out but it was in great condition. Was nice to get out there with nobody around and just do some work and get ready for this week.

I played the back nine today; I played the front nine today. It's always tricky when there's as much wind blowing as there was yesterday but that's to die down over the next few days and with the long range weather forecast, it looks like it should be a great week.

Q. Could you tell us about the flight?

LEE WESTWOOD: Thought that might be the first question. Well, depends who you talk to. You talk to Chubby, there were flames coming up between our legs and things like that much (laughter). Not literally.

We took off, got about I guess three or four minutes in the air, and there was some smoke in the cabin, so the pilots donned the gas masks or whatever, oxygen masks, and turned it around fairly quickly; quicker than you would do normally and brought it down fast and once they got everything comfortable for them I guess, they just landed and we got the fire rescue guard of honor back to the handling agent.

It was a bit nervy for three or four minutes. But not as drama filled as some would have you make out; if you read the Sun, you would think we were on fire and landing like Memphis Belle or something like that. Sorry, Facey.

Q. So no reaction to it? You weren't in denial?

LEE WESTWOOD: Denial.

Q. You weren't in denial, delayed reaction?

LEE WESTWOOD: I tell you on the next flight I had a very large double vodka. (Laughter).

Q. Perhaps you could talk us through your putting and how you feel that is going, because you had a few nasty things to say about your last day?

LEE WESTWOOD: It wasn't very good last week but I spent an hour and a half on the putting green with my dad and sorted quite a few things out and just basic mistakes really. Feels and looks a lot better, as well. I'm getting quite confident now.

Q. You've had an up close look and personal look at Phil playing here in contention, how do you describe the home course advantage he seems to have and the relationship he has with the course and the fans here?

LEE WESTWOOD: Well, he's obviously popular here. I think most past champions are; more so with Phil I guess for some reason. I don't know what reason that is.

But he's got a great record. Obviously likes the golf course. I think it probably suits anybody with a great short game more so. All of the past champions have been great chippers and putters.

The Masters is one of those places where you keep coming back, the people because it's the same place every year, the same people watching you, people bond with you more than other tournaments and are able to make that bond. It's coming home for some people I guess each year.

ROB JOHNSTON: If you would please address your question in a little stronger terms it would help the gentleman and the people on the far side of the room. I would appreciate it.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you've had to learn in playing this golf course?

LEE WESTWOOD: Patience, really. I've always been fairly aggressive and gone at a lot of flags, probably more than I should have done in the past. And it is a golf course you have to be very strategic on and play patiently.

Q. How long does it take to learn that? How many times do you have to play here to get that message?

LEE WESTWOOD: You learn it fairly quickly but if you are stupid sometimes like me, sometimes it takes awhile to sink in. (Laughter).

And sometimes you just can't help it, or I seem to, in the past; like not be able to help myself and go at flags. Whereas, you know, you need a bit of discipline, straight over the trap on 12 and try to hit to the middle of the green. You make four threes there, I think most people would take that. That kind of thing.

There are a lot of flags out there that you need to be patient on and just play away from the flag and be happy with 25, 30 feet up the hill.

Q. Did your dad come up with suggestions, or is it just another pair of eyes to look at the putting?

LEE WESTWOOD: I've been struggling with my alignment a little bit, so we worked on that and getting a bit close to the ball with my eyes over the ball a little bit more. They were getting a bit too far inside. The path the putter is now making is better, it's on line a little bit longer.

Q. But he had input in the changes?

LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah.

Q. He always has?

LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah. He's watched me the most over the years.

Q. It used to be said that Augusta National was probably better suited as a golf course to a European style of play as opposed to the U.S. Open or PGA or other majors; is it that way anymore? Does the style change as the course changes?

LEE WESTWOOD: I couldn't quite figure out why people said that. Maybe because Europeans were winning I guess. But I don't see how it does. There's nothing like this anywhere else in the world. I don't know why it should suit Europeans than Americans at the end of the day. (Laughter).

They tried to replicate it in Houston last week, but you can't. It's one of a kind.

Q. Could you talk a little about speaking of your up close view of Phil last week and playing with him a few rounds, can you talk about the kind of form you saw him in and the performance on the weekend, and what your assessment was?

LEE WESTWOOD: The first two days he played all right, not great. But Saturday he played as good as I've seen him play ever, I think. He played very well. Other than the pitch in, or chip in through the back of 6, where most of the people probably made double, and he made par, that was the only time he was out of position all day, I would say.

Where was he going from there I forgot. And certainly over the first three days he was playing with this in mind. He was hitting a lot of shots right to left with a lot of shape for certain holes here, I would guess, trying to get comfortable with that.

I didn't play with him on Sunday.

Q. When you're playing last week and again, what were the memories, were they mostly good?

LEE WESTWOOD: I got rid of all of the memories a week last Sunday. That's why I came. Yesterday was just purely about looking at the golf course and getting used to the speed of the greens a little bit and chip shots and bunker shots around the greens.

Q. Was it good memories last week?

LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, very good, yeah. I played well. So you get good memories from that.

Q. I'd just be curious what the differences are, emotions, atmosphere, what have you, from being in contention on the back nine last year at Augusta compared with Turnberry, compared with Torrey Pines.

LEE WESTWOOD: No real difference. I had chances at all three, right in there. There is no real difference. You are obviously very excited, and trying your best.

Q. What did you learn playing the final round with Phil last year by watching him, how to win one of these? Patience is not the word that comes to mind when you think of Phil.

LEE WESTWOOD: No, not normally. (Laughter).

I think what basically won Phil the Masters last year was the stretch around the turn; not so much the shot on 13, but going out of 8, 9, 10, 11 in 1 under-par when I think probably most other people would have been 2 or 3 over from the positions he was in. So a good short game. But I've always known you've needed a good short game around here. That's not rocket science.

Q. Can you describe what it's like when the roars are going up, like when you're playing with Phil last year, and you're not the one making them; does that make you want to start chasing?

LEE WESTWOOD: No, you make a game plan before you even get out there. The crowd don't really have much impact on the way you play. You just formulate a plan in the practice rounds and do your homework there, and stick to that. The course doesn't change between during your practice rounds and teeing off Thursday morning. It changes because they firm it up a bit and speed the greens up a bit. But still, 18 holes are there in front of you.

So the crowd are really irrelevant. You know they are going to have favorites. They always do. You pretty much if you're playing with an American and you're a European, you're playing in America, you know they are going to be cheering for the other guy, but that's just the way it is.

Q. You've got the full family with you this week, kids, as well; is that a help or a hindrance?

LEE WESTWOOD: It's a help, yeah. They are only here until Thursday. Sam wanted to come and caddie in the Par 3 Tournament. Seems like I have another caddie that's tagging along in Poppy. I'll have to do small boiler suits.

No, it will be fun. It will be nice to get them out there. I don't think they realize what I do until they come and see this (smiling).

Q. Does it help you relax?

LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, very much so. But I'm always fairly relaxed. You know, especially this week, I've learned that I've had three rounds almost, or 2 ½, before the tournament started and now I'm playing nine and nine and Wednesday morning and the Par 3. I'm doing a lot less going into the tournament now and I'm a lot fresher come Thursday. I think that was part of the problem in the past.

Q. What's your next start after this?

LEE WESTWOOD: I'm playing in Indonesia in a week I'll play in Indonesia and then Korea.

Q. Curious, the Indonesia event is opposite the Volvo China Open, a European Tour event and Indonesia is an Asian Tour event; what appropriated that decision?

LEE WESTWOOD: I play all over the world and that's somewhere I haven't played in a long, long time.

Q. With the conditions what they are today with all of the rain, how much can you gain from playing the golf course, considering it will probably be a lot different once the tournament starts on Thursday?

LEE WESTWOOD: I would think the SubAir system they have got all over the golf course is on overdrive right now and sucking all of the moisture out of it to dry it up as fast as possible. And, you know, as part of an advantage of it being the 12th Masters, the experience of knowing how much the golf course changes and having played it in hard, fast conditions, which it probably be come Thursday if stays a bit breezy and the sun comes and dries it out. If it's your first Masters and it rains overnight like last night and today it's soft and you're firing at flags, because they can dry out so quickly from Thursday, it could come as a bit of a shock when you tee off Thursday morning. The golf course changes a lot. But obviously if you've played a lot and you have the experience, you have the knowledge of that.

Q. On this golf course, is there no lead that's big enough to hold onto, especially here?

LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, it's unique in that way. It's part of what people like about the Masters. You can shoot 30 around nine holes and have a run like that. You've got two par 5s on the back nine. You can make a move pretty quickly. Look at Anthony Kim in the last round last year; I think that's part of the excitement and that's what people remember when they think back over previous Masters.

And I think of my favorite ones, it's probably Nicklaus; his rush around the back nine there. And then the next one, probably Phil and Ernie a few years back where they both seemed to knock every flag out. Yeah, I think they are the Masters that people remember and that's part of the charm of it.

Q. It took Phil a while to break through and win a major. Is that something you draw on, to know your day will come?

LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I suppose so. And the fact that last year, I sat in the scoring cabin and he just said, "Just keep doing what you're doing and it will happen for you sooner or later."

Q. Given so much of the learning curve playing Augusta National, would it surprise you to see someone playing this week for just the second or third time?

LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, a little bit I suppose. You look at repeat winners, and people that have you generally it seems to be the rule that you have to have played a few to get the hang of it. I think local knowledge does come in there. It's because it's such fine parameters; a yard past the flag on certain holes can be the difference, or short of the flag, can be the difference of having a chip for birdie and struggling to get down in two.

So when you talk about two or three yards either way, then obviously local knowledge counts for a lot.

Q. Do you have more confidence right now based on your runner up finish last year or the putting session last night?

LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I feel like everything's coming together. I think the start of this year has been a little bit slow, partly to do with being injured the second half of last year. I haven't really been able to get into a flow of things and play the schedule that I would like and do as much practice as I would like.

And I'm generally a pretty slow start most years. But this year, I've shot some good scores and played some good golf at times. So you know, if it all clicks into place this week, I know if I'm on my game, it's good enough to win.

ROB JOHNSTON: Lee, thank you for being with us and wish you the best of luck this week.

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