An Interview With: LEE WESTWOOD
KELLY ELBIN: The most tenured member of the 2012 European Ryder Cup Team, Lee Westwood, joining us at the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club. This will be Lee's eighth Ryder Cup, all in consecutive years. Lee has an all time record of 16 11 6.
How does it feel to be the veteran
LEE WESTWOOD: Tenured.
KELLY ELBIN: The most tenured veteran. Welcome to The Ryder Cup.
LEE WESTWOOD: Thank you.
KELLY ELBIN: Comments on what's transpired so far in the team room and being the leader of this team.
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, I'm the most experienced player on the team, but you know, José Maria is the leader. It's been as good as all the other ones. It's nice to sort of get here and meet the rest of the players sort of officially, although we all know each other, and start thinking about Friday and getting started.
It's a good atmosphere in the team room, as it always is in the European team room. And I'm enjoying it.
KELLY ELBIN: You've played this golf course twice in the PGA Championship; how did the two times you've played in those compare to what you saw yesterday?
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, there was a little bit more rough at the PGA Championship. And it was a little bit hotter because it's a little bit earlier in the year. I must admit, it's nice and cool this time of year here. It was almost perfect yesterday.
It's still a good golf course. A couple of interesting changes. I think the greens may be a little bit more undulating. 15 has obviously changed quite a lot, which I think will make for a good match play hole at that stage in the round.
So it sets up for a good week. Both teams are playing well. Both teams have got great players in it, and there will be all the intensity that there is normally at a Ryder Cup.
Q. In the 15 years you've been playing Ryder Cups, a lot has changed in terms of European players who now play over here and live over here. Luke lives right in the area. José Maria was talking about the difference the other day of just saying how flying over with three people on the plane instead of a plane full. I think it changes the dynamic in two respects. One, the European players get to know the U.S. courses better than they used to, and two, the American fans get to know the European players better and get to know them. Can you talk about that difference and does it somewhat neutralize the home field advantage for the States?
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, I think there's definitely less of a them and us type of thing now from everybody's point of view. I think the players play with each other a lot more regularly since the sort of start of the World Golf Championships and the fact that the top world ranked players get pulled together a lot more regularly, like you said.
It was such a long question, I can't remember most of and you answered most of it so well.
What was the second part of it? (Laughter.)
Q. Does it neutralize the home field advantage?
LEE WESTWOOD: I think slightly, there's a feeling that the crowd knows the European players a lot better, and I guess social media has a little bit to do with that as well. The home advantage, you're always going to have that. The crowd are going to pull for the United States Team here and we are going to get it in Europe. So nothing new about that, and that's the way you want it. That's why we change it around every two years.
Of course, people have talked about the setup; I've played here pretty much all year, and I haven't seen a golf course that's had no rough and no rough around the greens. This is not a golf course that either team is particularly used to, and I can't see how it suits one team or the other to be perfectly honest. I would say that the last time I played a golf course set up like this with no rough around the greens and no rough down the side of the fairways was The Belfry in 2002, and we set that up for ourselves.
That's a weird one to me, but you have to do what you feel is right, I think, as a team captain for your team.
Q. People talk about you being the leader on The European Team. Where do you see that being most important? Is it on the course or in the team room?
LEE WESTWOOD: I think both are equally as important really. You know, this is my eighth Ryder Cup and eighth different captain, so I've experienced more than any other player I think in Ryder Cup history, different captains at different Ryder Cups, and seen the way different captains do it. The way they do it right and maybe some mistakes that captains make because everybody makes mistakes. You're not going to get it right all the time.
If I'm asked my opinion, then I'll give it. You know, it will be considered and I won't say educated, but I'd have a fair amount of background and knowledge on the experience.
So I can't remember the rest of your question, either. Sorry.
Can we keep the questions short? (Laughing).
Q. I'll try. Just coming back to the course setup. We talked about the rough. As one of the more accurate drivers out there, do you feel without there being so much rough, accuracy off the tee isn't going to quite be rewarded in the same way that it is in a major?
LEE WESTWOOD: No, I don't think so. I think there's still a big advantage. It was certainly yesterday I felt there was a big advantage to hitting the fairways still. The greens it's not going to rain. The greens are not going to get any softer. They will firm up. It will be an advantage to hit fairways; always is.
And these Ryder Cups, at the end of the day, it's who holes the most putts. We all hit it pretty good tee to green. It's just who is going to make those 15 , 20 footers for the wins, and 5 , 6 footers for the halves when they are needed.
Q. Can you review your destruction of the opposition yesterday in practice, and can you go through why it works with you and Luke, not only as players, but as people?
LEE WESTWOOD: I think myself and Luke get on really well, which helps in a four ball combination, or foursomes as we played last time in Wales. It was only a practice round on the first day. I wouldn't read too much into it. We came out fast and we were just way too good for Ian and Justin (smiling). And they are a lot lighter this morning in their pockets.
Q. I just wondered if you believe, like Ian, that there's more pressure in Ryder Cup than a major?
LEE WESTWOOD: It's a different kind of pressure. I think there's a lot of pressure in a Ryder Cup, but I think there's a massive amount of pressure at a Major Championship in the last round. But I think The Ryder Cup, it's a feeling of not wanting to let anybody down, and you're representing your country and your continent and wanting to make a good show of it for them, as well. It's a different kind of pressure.
Q. Short question. You're moving to America but you're selling up in Worksop. I imagine you can afford to keep places on both sides, and you're obviously well associated with your British home. Why are you doing that?
LEE WESTWOOD: Just because I'm not going to spend that much time in England and it doesn't make financial sense to keep anywhere on in England.
The main problem with living in Worksop is the only time I'm there or the quality time I'm there is in the winter, and I can't carry on with my job. I don't want to put the golf clubs away for five weeks when the weather is miserable and not be able to practice. I want to keep my eye in I'll look back, over the years, I'm a notoriously slow starter to seasons, and I get the feeling that it is because I finish off one year in late November, I put the clubs away for a long time and I come back cold and it takes me a couple of months to get going.
So you know, there's the climate benefits to living in Florida, obviously. And you know, when I am at home, even like a couple of weeks ago, the fastest I can get my green at home is maybe 9, 10 on the Stimp and I come here and play in Atlanta and they are running well, it felt like 15, 16 at some point. It's too much of a change.
Q. Poults said that you sent him scurrying to the ATM yesterday, and that comes on the back of obviously a week where you didn't perform that great. What is it that allows you to come to a Ryder Cup, as you did in 2002, and suddenly find form?
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, it's a different kind of golf, isn't it, than last week. Last week I actually didn't play that bad last week. It was just that the course was very new to me, I had not played it before. I didn't really know what to expect. The greens took me by surprise, the speed of them, and the undulations on them, I found them difficult to read. I got over par early, and it was the kind of format where you either need to play really well or you're just going to be in a bunch at the back, and I tried to get aggressive at times and just kept short siding myself and missing in the wrong places and not being able to it was just like a slow dribble of bogeys rather than hitting it off line too often.
My game wasn't that bad last week. Just one of those weeks. I'm old enough now to be able to put them out of my mind and be able to refocus on the following weeks, which is this week.
I played well yesterday. Hit the ball well and made a few putts. And it's the Ryder Cup; if you can't get up for this one, you're going to struggle to get up for anything.
Q. Luke was in here a few minutes ago and he was talking about the various captains that he's played under and the differences of approach; Langer's attention to detail; Woosie's relaxation; Monty somewhere between the two. Can you say, have you come to any conclusions about the characteristics of José Maria's captaincy and what sort of a captain he's making?
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, if you set The Ryder Cup captain thing aside, I just think he's a really great fella. He's a good, solid man. He's honest. He'll tell you what he thinks. He's calculated. And then you bring into it his passion and his flair, I guess a bit of the Spanish influence there, and the fact that he's played in numerous Ryder Cups teamed up with Seve Ballesteros, and that's bound to have rubbed off on him a little bit. He's the all around package.
Q. How important do you see the morning foursomes on Friday to give the momentum for the whole three days? And are you up for hitting the opening shot again?
LEE WESTWOOD: I'd prefer a lie in really and play last. (Laughter.)
But the first session is quite important. You don't want to get too far behind. And with it being foursomes, it makes it even harder. If you get if you don't get momentum going in foursomes, it's very difficult to turn it around and get going in the right direction.
So foursomes is a tricky format and it's important to get your combinations right. And over the last few years, we've been quite successful in foursomes, so maybe that's a bit of an advantage to us for it to be foursomes in the morning.
Q. We've got at least three established combinations, maybe another partner for you, so that's a big strength of The European Team, that Friday morning.
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, possibly, yeah, I would agree with you there, yeah. You've not picked anybody out for me?
Q. Who do you fancy?
LEE WESTWOOD: I don't fancy anyone. (Laughter.)
Q. From your previous seven appearances, what's been the highlight, and has there been any disappointment or lowlight for you?
LEE WESTWOOD: The highlights are winning them, obviously. The lowlights are not winning them. But I can pick highlights out of all of them. There's been great moments in every Ryder Cup. It's always difficult when you get asked to pick out one.
I guess one of the highlights was walking on to the first tee at The K Club with Darren. But certainly a lowlight from that was having to be in that situation. That was a very emotional Ryder Cup for everybody, but I'm obviously close to Darren, and it was a tough one, and it was nice to see it all work out; a bit of light at the end of the tunnel for him that week.
But there's been highlights at all of them.
If I'm to pick out the ones we lost, I really enjoyed Mark James's press conferences in Boston. They were very funny I thought.
Q. And then you've played most of your career with Sergio or had Sergio on your team; what does he mean to the European Team and what's it like having him back as a player after being a vice captain two years ago?
LEE WESTWOOD: Sergio is a world class players and one of the best Ryder Cup players I've certainly partnered.
He helped me at The Belfry when I was struggling with my game. He was the bouncy sort of exuberant partner that I probably needed to take my mind off the seriousness of The Ryder Cup and just sort of go out and just hit the ball and find it and hit it again and try and make a few putts.
He's great for that. He's good fun in the team room and he's very passionate about The Ryder Cup. He gets stuck in.
Q. You changed your coach recently. Could you explain
LEE WESTWOOD: Can I clarify it? I haven't been working with anybody on my long game for a long, long time. And I was working with Pete Cowen on my short game and my bunker play, and we did some good work, but it just came to a point where I didn't feel like it was improving, so I needed to make a change, and then started working with Tony Johnston and he gave me some simple things to work on. And you know, they clicked in pretty well.
So that's where I'm at with that. So you can carry onwards.
Q. Was that I guess it was a tough decision to bring one relationship to an end; did you kind of feel that
LEE WESTWOOD: Not really a tough decision. At the end of the day, I'm a business. Businesses, you want them to perform well, and I just needed a change in strategy to start performing well again. Nothing personal. Myself and Pete get on really well still. We had a beer the other night. Just one of those things, if you're an adult and grown up, you understand these things.
Q. Is it strange not having Billy Foster this week, and will he be a big miss?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, very strange. Billy, you know, he's obviously a great caddie. Fortunately I've got Mike, who is equally a very good caddie. But I know Billy has been to a lot of Ryder Cups; even when he was not caddying, he came. He's worked for Seve. So, you know, obviously Seve has rubbed off on him.
He'll be sad at home on the couch or settee or whatever you want to call it, and he'll be very frustrated, and I know he is because he's texted me already. Yeah, it's a shame. But these things happen, injuries happen.
KELLY ELBIN: Lee Westwood, thank you very much.
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