With family in tow, Westwood in a good spot ahead of 2013 TOUR debut

February 06, 2013
Helen Ross,

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Lee Westwood was about to turn 13 when he and his father John both played golf for the first time.

Westwood had played soccer, ran track and generally disrupted his father's fishing trips by throwing pebbles in the water. But neither he nor his dad, who was a math teacher, had ever set foot on a golf course before that day. The scores reportedly were well into the triple digits, but two days later, they made their first birdies -- on the same hole, no less -- and the Westwood men were hooked.

Six years later, the precocious son turned pro.

"He's the reason, really, I've got so good at the game," Westwood said. "He and my mum invested a lot time in me when I was growing up."

Now is the time for Westwood to give back to John and Tricia, who are celebrating their 43rd wedding anniversary -- and her birthday, at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Westwood is making his 2013 PGA TOUR debut and playing with his father, who was a 12 handicap when his son joined the European Tour (and plays this week to a 16).

"I can't understand the reasons for that," Westwood said with a grin. "He went to every lesson that I have had, drove me there and sat there and listened to it. I just got a bit better than him.  

"Must be down to talent or something like that."

Westwood, who won the 2000 Dimension Data Pro-Am with his dad the only other time they played together, has competed at Pebble Beach three times previously, tying for 62nd in the AT&T in 2005 but faring better in the two U.S. Opens held on the fabled links, sharing 16th in 2010 and tying for fifth in 2000.

Even though he hasn't been a regular visitor to the Monterey Peninsula, Westwood understands the allure.

"I think no matter what level you're at, good day, bad day, it's still a stunning place," Westwood said. "If you're having a bad day and you can't concentrate on your golf, you can always have a look round and find something beautiful to look at.
"It's just a magical place to play golf. I've always said it's my favorite place. People always ask me where I would like to play my last round of golf. If it wasn't a golf course with by a hospital, it would be Pebble Beach.'

Westwood isn't the only player choosing the scenic venue to make his 2013 PGA TOUR debut this week, either. Jim Furyk, who is playing with singer Darius Rucker, and Retief Goosen, on the comeback trail after having surgery to replace a disc in his back, are also competing in the star-studded affair.

Westwood, who finished fifth in Dubai last week, has made a lot of changes -- adding a new PING G25 driver, 3-wood and utility club to his bag, as well as a new putter. The biggest change, though, is the change in residence the Englishman made over the holidays, moving with his wife Laurae and their family to West Palm Beach, Fla.

The couples' children, Sam, who is 12, and Poppy, who is eight, have adjusted to the move with ease.

"I think they quite like going to school in shorts and a t-shirt and trainers," Westwood said. "I've seen a change in them. Other than them being a little more tanned, they very relaxed."

Westwood, for his part, likes living in near-year-round warmth by the ocean -- "It's slightly better than the foot of snow we got in England," he says, grinning. In fact, it's almost too easy to go out and practice.  
"Feels weird not having to get wrapped up and push the ice off the green," Westwood said.

Westwood, who has won 35 times internationally and twice in the U.S., rejoined the PGA TOUR last year because he wanted to compete in the FedExCup. He made a strong run through the Playoffs, too, tying for fifth at The Barclays and second at the BMW Championship before ending up 10th overall in the season-long competition.

Westwood will head back to the United Kingdon for the Volvo PGA and British Open, as well as play in the French Open. Otherwise, the 39-year-old's golf will be played in the United States, hence the decision to move.

"It'll make it a lot easier, won't it?" Westwood said. "I'll see a lot more of my family. Jet lag was becoming an issue. ... So moving over is part of reason for doing that is to make life easier."

Now, if he and his father John can just get it going when the tournament begins on Thursday.

"I just want to see him enjoy himself and make some nice shots and make a par and maybe the odd birdie and eagle," Westwood said. "Just come in and help me out every now and again. I'll try and carry him along as much as I go."