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An Interview with: LEE WESTWOOD
KELLY ELBIN: The most experienced member of the 2008 Ryder Cup Team, Lee Westwood joining us, ladies and gentlemen, at the 37th Ryder Cup. This will be Lee's sixth Ryder Cup in all; his record is 14, 8 and 3. By the way, Lee also tied for 15th at the 2000 PGA Championship here at Valhalla.
Lee, welcome back, a golf course that you know pretty well, and what does it mean to you to be back as a Ryder Cup Member?
LEE WESTWOOD: It's certainly nice to be qualified for The Ryder Cup Team and it's good to be back here. The course has changed a little bit, a little bit longer I think, and the green construction has changed, as well. 16 has changed a bit, and moved the tee back on 17. But all in all I played pretty well today I thought and hopefully we should see a few birdies during the week.
Q. Can you tell us a bit about the people on the first tee before the photographs this morning, in terms of being with the team?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, that was more for less experienced players, guys that have not played on the stage before and the rookies, just to get an idea of what it's all about.
Q. How much will experience factor in, and how does the course compare from 2000?
LEE WESTWOOD: The course is long and it will be on Friday morning. The geography of it all I suppose will be exactly the same. And I suppose the first tee shot hit is not as intimidating as it could have been and they widened the fairway considerably from when I played in the PGA here, and they have taken the rough back quite a long way, which we expected them to do.
So I think the less experienced players, they have got good experience playing in the States and competing with the American guys, so I don't see as it will be too much different for them.
Q. You've played on the most Ryder Cup Teams; how does this particular team feel different than the ones in years past as far as the chemistry is concerned?
LEE WESTWOOD: Obviously Monty and Darren are not here and they have not played on every Ryder Cup Team and that's quite different. It's a little bit less experienced team but it's the first team in quite some time where everybody is inside of the Top 50 in the World Rankings. Got a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of young, enthusiastic people.
Q. How is Poulter feeling?
LEE WESTWOOD: Fine, yeah.
Q. Nick said he was one of the first to break the ice; can you tell us about that?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, normally he's outgoing and has quite a lot to say. He's pretty good in the team room as far as telling a few jokes and stuff like that.
Q. And the most serious member of your team, Oliver Wilson, what do you know about him?
LEE WESTWOOD: I've played with him in his last qualifying round at Gleneagles, and it was the first time I played with him and impressed with how he handled it. He could have missed the cut quite easily and showed why he deserves to be a Ryder Cup player those last ten holes when he shot 4 or 5 under par, and was still in with a chance on the weekend. That's the sort of form and people and quality of player that we're coming into this event with.
I gave him a call and let him know that if he needed anything, I was there, and obviously a great week and it's a lot to look forward to and put my arm around him, really.
Q. Playing in six Ryder Cups and what have you, Padraig has talked about the likes of yourself and Padraig Harrington being the elder statesmen of the team and what have you, and you just talked about bringing up Ollie Wilson; do you feel you are going to take up that role, and if so, are you changing in any way to do that?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, just trying to be myself. I would quite enjoy taking on that role. I've got a lot of experience playing in Ryder Cup now and got a lot to give back, and sometime in the future, a long way off, I would hope it would be my turn to be captain at some stage. So I think showing that kind of responsibility when you're one of the more experienced players is a lead on to that.
You know, I've quite enjoyed it really, the first sort of couple of days.
Q. Do you recall your first Ryder Cup and your first tee shot, were you able to separate it earlier
LEE WESTWOOD: No.
Q. Was it just another opening shot or what did it feel like?
LEE WESTWOOD: We were talking on the tee this morning, it was very much do as I say, not as I do, because I could not get the ball on the tee in Valderrama in '97. It's quite funny watching it now. I look quite calm and collected and almost look like I know what I'm doing, and my hands were shaking and my eyes glazed over a little bit and it was obviously a completely different experience to the one I had been used to.
I think partly the fact that you play such a long qualifying campaign to try to get onto the team, and the pressure builds and builds and builds, and finally it's upon you and all of a sudden you have to try and hit the fairway and do your thing.
It may be a bit more difficult for them, the rookies this time, this Ryder Cup, because it's foursomes, the first part. If you don't get into foursomes early, it's very difficult to get any kind of form of momentum. Whereas I had four ball with Nick Faldo the first morning, so I was able to look across there and think if I do get off to a sort of scratchy start, that Nick will be there to bail me out.
KELLY ELBIN: For the record, in that first match, Lee played with Nick Faldo and they beat Fred Couples and Brad Faxon in a four ball match in 1997, 1 up.
Q. You've had a long time to look at different players and what makes them successful in The Ryder Cup; what characteristic Nick was asked this this morning. What characteristics do you see that are important for a player to be successful in The Ryder Cup?
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, when I've looked around, I've sort of seen that there's been many different types of golfer, you know, the flushers, the people that it don't hit it quite so well, but get up and down from around the greens. I would say the common denominator between all of them, players that have really good short games and hole out well, make putts when it matters, that's one of the main things in match play, making 10 or 12 footer when it's vital. It might only be for a halve, but just making that putt at the right time, really.
There's been all types of different attitudes. I'm one of the more placid ones, but you only have to look at Sergio, he's got a great record and he's bubbly and outgoing and bouncing around all over the place, so to me there's many different ways to become a successful Ryder Cup player.
Q. The American captain made it clear today he wanted the crowd whipped up into some type of frenzy. Problem for you or not?
LEE WESTWOOD: Depends how we start, really. If we got off to a really good start, you can silence a crowd quite quickly as we did in Detroit.
But you know, that's part of the fun of The Ryder Cup, the fact that when you're playing on your home turf, you've got all of the crowd behind you, and when you come into the States, all of the Americans are cheering for America. That's the great thing about it.
You know, that's what drives me on, wanting to beat people and everything seems to be against you; the fact that you're playing in America, and you know, against the crowd, as well, is part of the charm of it, I think. It's as close as we as golfers get to a football match, really.
Q. I'm wondering with six rookies on the American side, half the team, does that in some ways make them more dangerous or less predictable since you throw a bunch of new guys in there who have never been in this predicament before, maybe under the notion of too young and dumb to know better; they might play at a higher level than some of the older guard they have replaced who have had bad experiences over the years?
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, in my experience, experience of Ryder Cup is a massive asset.
But at the same time, you know, there might be a rookie on the American Team that's just made for The Ryder Cup, really raises his game for that situation. We've yet to find out. I think it may be the same on our team. We've got four rookies and they might settle in quite easily. Who is to say Justin Rose isn't going to be an unbelievable Ryder Cup player and never lose a match? So you never know all of these things. That's the great thing about The Ryder Cup; it throws together different kind of experienced players and rookies.
Q. I know you're all too aware of the influence that Ireland and Irish players have had on The Ryder Cup in the past; what impact do you think the Irish players can make on the tournament this year?
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, Padraig is obviously playing very, very well. There's no question that he can play under the most intense pressure, which, you know, Ryder Cups and majors are, and Graeme is a very good front runner when he gets a sniff of a title and gets under that kind of pressure; he invariably comes through. Both have got very good games.
That's one of the things with The Ryder Cup; I've always sort of related it to the fact that every hole of a Ryder Cup is like playing in the last hole of a tournament, needing to make a par or a birdie to win the tournament. Both of them are pretty good under pressure, so you would expect them to do well this week.
Q. Paul Azinger said this morning he's planning to play Holmes and Perry together in the first group on the Friday morning. How would you like to see Faldo react to that? Would you be on for teaming with somebody like Sergio and meeting that challenge head on?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I wouldn't expect anything less. You know, it's a match that America wants to see, I suppose, a bit like Phil and Tiger in Detroit. It can go one of a couple of ways. It can be very successful and get the crowd on your side, or it can go the way it did at Detroit.
You know, that's the chances that captains take, I suppose.
KELLY ELBIN: European Ryder Cup veteran Lee Westwood, thank you very much.
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