What they said: Lee Westwood

February 29, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

DOUG MILNE: Lee, thanks for joining us for a few minutes. You made your PGA TOUR debut last week for the season at the Match Play, which went very well for you. Just some comments as you're starting the week here at The Honda Classic. You're making your third start at this tournament, you had a Top 10 in 2010. Just some comments on how you're feeling last week and heading into this week.

LEE WESTWOOD: Obviously confidence is high after last week. I played well and this is a golf course I enjoy playing. It's got a great feel to it, this tournament, and everybody knows about the toughness of the finish, but it's a pretty tough golf course all the way around. The wind normally blows. It's in great condition this week again. The greens are nice and they do a good job of getting it in shape.

I'm looking forward to getting going and following on from last week, where, like you said, it was a good start.

Q. What do you think about the change on 18, moving the tee up??

LEE WESTWOOD: Well, I've only played the front nine, so I haven't seen 18. But I wasn't a big fan of the back tee. I'm not a fan of par 5s where you've got like a blind lay up second shot there. You can't really sort of see where you're hitting. I know that happens with greens, but normally you've got a flag in there.

I prefer the way it plays off the front tee. The longer it, you've got a chance to go there and it's a risk/reward. If you start missing it left, it leaves a tough shot. You know, the shorter it is, still can see where they are laying up. So I'm a big fan of the front tee there.

Q. How spent are you? How tough is it to play after playing all the way into Sunday at match play?

LEE WESTWOOD: Not tired at all. I had a day off yesterday. Didn't do anything. Didn't hit any balls or anything. So, you know, I've had a full day's practice today and looking forward to getting going again.

I think I mentioned last week, obviously now what a physical specimen I am, that I can play a lot of golf in a row (grinning).

Last week didn't seem that tiring. I mean, I slept pretty well Sunday and Monday night, but you know, I don't feel worn out. I did two hours in the gym this morning, so can't be that bad.

Q. Are you over here through the Masters, or will you go home??

LEE WESTWOOD: No, I'm going home for two weeks after Doral and then coming back for Shell Houston Open.

Q. Is that a similar schedule, I believe, to what you've had; has it served you well, do you feel, and why??

LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, it's almost identical as the last couple of years. It does really. This is a stretch of three, and I played three in the Middle East and I had a week off, so it's six in seven weeks, which is quite a lot of golf. And the first three weeks, I worked extra hard, so it's really like a preseason. So I did a lot of gym work that I wouldn't normally do, as well.

So you know, after those six weeks out of seven, it feels like I needed a break. There's one of the biggest horse jump meeting in the country when I get back, as well, which I like to go to; Cheltenham. I do have things in my life other than golf.

You know, it would be nice to recharge my batteries there and play Houston, which I feel like my game is suited to, and it's also a great build up for the Masters, the way they set the golf course up, the speed of the greens and the run offs and things like that. I like the way the start of the year is shaping up.

Q. Do you ever go to Augusta prior to the tournament week??

LEE WESTWOOD: I have done in the last two years. And I think that's served me well, getting practice rounds in and playing chips in different places, getting used to that.

But I'm not going to do it this year, because I feel like it doesn't change that much each year. And the golf course is so different on the Monday before the tournament, never mind two weeks before the tournament. I normally go the weekend before Houston, and the golf course didn't play anything like it will on Thursday of the tournament.

So it really seemed like a bit of a pointless exercise. Yeah, it's nice to go and play, but I feel like I need a couple of extra days off at home.

Steve has a question right at the back; he's pointing his hand up like a naughty kid.

Q. Yeah, I'm being punished. You've played in Korea over the years with a good bit of success. There's been a decent run by players of either, from Korea or Korean descent here in the States. I think there's now ten on the U.S. Tour. I'm just wondering from what you've seen over there, is the talent pool on the male side starting to catch up with the female side, and what are they doing right in Korea that's pushing them out in front of, say, China and Japan as far as that goes??

LEE WESTWOOD: Well, I think you've seen how the ladies dominate their tour. It makes me wonder why the men are a little bit behind. I've heard various things, like national service gets in the way with the lads a little bit and various things.

But the signs are there that they are starting to catch up, isn't it. I don't know why they have been in front of the Chinese and other parts of Asia. You know, you'd have to ask one of them. I don't see what sort of structure they have to their practice and funding and stuff like that.

But, you know, Y.E. Yang has won a Major Championship and K.J. that won THE PLAYERS Championship last year and he's been on this tour playing great here for a number of years, and the young lads have got those players to emulate.

So it's no surprise you've got the likes of Bae that played well last week and Noh and the 'Question Mark' that won last week, too. That's what we are calling him now; he sounds a bit like Prince. It's just a matter of time before they get a lot more players coming through. And they can all play, for sure.

Kyung tae Kim, as well. I played with him in Korea last year when I won for the last two rounds, and he looked a really solid player; and myself and Billy had never heard of him and we looked at the World Rankings and he's about 32nd on the World Rankings. He's a good talent, as well.

Q. You were in the final group in the 2010 Masters and then last year, I think you teed off about an hour and a half before the leaders, and it's such a wild finish; did you feel left out a bit, or what do you remember about wishing you were in the mix more??

LEE WESTWOOD: Well, you wish you were in the mix every tournament; that goes without saying.

I played with Charl on the Saturday, so I couldn't have been far off the lead, because he ended up winning it. It was an impressive finish. I had been involved with Phil on the previous year, and I think I was 1 under for the last four, and that felt like a pretty good finish. And then Charl pops up and birdies the last four holes; and I know Adam to make a few birdies, and Jason Day. It was an excellent finish to the tournament.

Q. How much of a rivalry has developed between you and Rory these last couple of years??

LEE WESTWOOD: I mean, if I'm going to have a rivalry, I'd like it to be with Rory, because he is, you know, arguably, the hottest player on the planet at the moment. I'm willing to go along with that if you want to write about it. (Laughing).

Q. Do you enjoy that, having a sort of rivalry to take on more??

LEE WESTWOOD: I've been around a long time now. I think this is my 19th year out here, and there's been sort of various rivalries thrown at me during my career and I really don't pay much attention to them. You learn through playing golf a long time that the only thing you can control is your own game. That's all I try and do.

If it keeps cropping up that you're playing for one player, like we were going for the Order of Merit two years ago; I figure if I'm going to keep playing well and getting in contention for tournament, we are always going to pretty much be in a similar position.

So we're going to be playing together a lot and it's going to go backwards and forwards. One of us will get the better of the other, as I did in Dubai two weeks ago and Rory got the better of me last week. That's just the way it is. But I mean, rivalries are good. They are exciting for everyone else to watch, aren't they.

Q. You are a guy who appeared to have lost "it" and then you found "it," and now with Tiger

LEE WESTWOOD: What is "it"? (Laughter).

Q. That's kind of my question.

LEE WESTWOOD: All right.

Q. With Tiger, it's a question of whether he's lost it, especially with his putter, and I don't recall how much of your issues were with the putter. But could you just speak to the greatest mental challenge when you kind of lost it and then trying to find it again??

LEE WESTWOOD: I wish I knew what "it" was now. Different people face different things. You know, I don't really study Tiger's game that much to know what is letting him down. The only observation I've made over the last few months is when Tiger has had a chance of winning, his own tournament at the end of last year, and his game was comfortable to him, he finished the tournament off. When winners have a chance, they tend to finish it off and win.

Obviously in Abu Dhabi, he didn't feel as comfortable in that last round and he sprayed a few shots around and that wasn't like him. But, you know, everybody's human, and that's going to happen. You're not going to win every tournament. Even when he was winning a lot, didn't win every tournament.

So it will be a confidence thing, and there will be a few technical issues, and the confidence won't come back until I found with me, the confidence only came back when I started hitting shots that I had pictured before I played them. And then obviously once that happens once or twice, then you're confident; you build up your confidence on that, and it just snowballs and it gets better and better.

Q. As you're planning your schedule this year, especially with you and Rory picking up PGA TOUR membership this year, are you looking at who is in event fields, as well as the courses, and how they set schedules? Do you look at Rory definitely playing Irish Open; that you might play there, or is it all basically on what you want to do and what fits in your schedule?

LEE WESTWOOD: I think there are certain events that are where it's obvious that it's going to be a good field. You know, this being in the middle of two World Golf Championships, it's obvious that you're going to get a pretty good field here.

Abu Dhabi at the start of the year, Dubai Desert Classic, they are tournaments that generally get good fields.

Q. As you get into the year.

LEE WESTWOOD: I'm not playing Irish Open this year because it doesn't just fit in for me in that period of the year. It's a great golf course, obviously, Portrush, I've played in the past in the British Amateur, and the Irish Open is a great tournament, which I played a lot but I haven't played it a lot recently.

And I'm going to skip it because I'm playing the French the week after. I feel like that's going to be a better build up for The Open, because I'm skipping the week before the open this year just to try something different, where I go and play Lytham a little bit in the week leading up to that.

So, no, I don't play somewhere because somebody else is playing. You can't really play like that. There are different it's horses for courses a lot of times, so certain courses are going to suit certain people. I know Rory took Qatar off because he didn't feel like that golf course suits him. That's just what you do when you're self employed.

You pick where it fits your talents, I suppose, and that's the schedule most of us go with. Obviously there are going to be certain weeks, Quail Hollow the week before THE PLAYERS Championship is an obvious one where you just look at it, and you think, that's going to be a great field; major championship style golf course the week before THE PLAYERS Championship is perfect for coming over and playing a block of two for me.

Q. Do you relish or dread or does it matter the pairing tomorrow with you, Tiger

LEE WESTWOOD: My Pro Am team, tomorrow?

Q. Thursday.

LEE WESTWOOD: I'm looking forward to it more than life itself. (Smiling) No, I knew what you meant, I'm sorry.

Q. Does it bother you, the circus??

LEE WESTWOOD: I'm looking forward to it. It will be a great atmosphere out there. I get on really well with Ian, so I'll be taking the Mickey a bit there and I get on well with Tiger. I play with Tiger a lot. When I saw the draw I thought, that's brilliant, yeah, I'll be looking forward to that, yeah.

Q. Horses for courses, as a shrewd judge of horse fresh, looking ahead to The Ryder Cup, would Darren Clarke be a name if you were captain you would be pencilling in on the list at this stage of the year, no matter what his form is like??

LEE WESTWOOD: No. I think you've got to hit form. But if Darren finds form, then, you know, he would be an obvious pick. Depends on the balance of the team, whether we need experience in there. He may qualify. Darren is the original squiggle; you never know what to expect next.

I think if you asked Darren himself, he would want to have found a bit more form than he's got right now to get a pick. I think he's just struggling with his game a little bit, but I know as well as anybody how quickly he turns it around.

I played with him the Sunday before he won The Open last year, and I think he was firing everybody; tried to fire me at one stage, and I don't work for him. And then he won The Open Championship. So, you know, he's very unpredictable, and if he finds a bit of form, I'd play with him.

Q. How much of an impact does it make on your year that it is a Ryder Cup here? Does it have an influence every week you play?

LEE WESTWOOD: No. It's had a certain impact on joining this tour, because it's a counting event for membership here. So it made it even easier for me to be a member and play 15 this year, because that is a counting event.

But no, I haven't changed my schedule to qualify for the team or anything like that. People tend not to qualify for the team when they put emphasis and importance on qualifying for the team, because they you should just play. And if you have a great year and accruing of points, you'll get on the team if you're good enough. You shouldn't start the year thinking, right, I want to win some Ryder Cup points this week. That's when you see people get so far, and then stop gaining points.

Q. When you were presented the OBE, when did you find out you were going to get that??

LEE WESTWOOD: I got it in the Birthday's Honours List which were last June. I found out about three weeks before it was announced. And I had to keep it a secret, and I'm not good at keeping secrets, and it's one of the hardest things I had to do, not shout it out to everybody.

So then I think it's announced on the 21st of June, the Birthday Honours, and there's another set of Honours announced in the new year.

Q. So no matter what happens this year, it's been a great year for you already, right??

LEE WESTWOOD: Well, no, I'd like to do a bit more this year than what I've already done. But this is certainly a nice start to the year, yeah. I played better at the start of the year than I ever have done. I had a run in the Match Play, which I've never done before; and you know, being awarded an OBE; so it's been pretty good so far. But just wanted to try and build on that now, and keep performing well and improving.

Q. On The Ryder Cup, would you like to see it go to four captain's picks on your side, four from the World list and four from The Ryder Cup list, or do you like the balance as it is or would you change it somehow??

LEE WESTWOOD: Do you know, the only thing I would change about the Ryder Cup, I would play it over four days.

Q. But you wouldn't change the qualification process for your team? They have four picks on the U.S. now.

LEE WESTWOOD: I think three picks it seemed like three picks were hard enough to decide last time around. Four picks would just be would scramble the captain's mind I would think. I think three picks is about right. I don't think two picks is enough. Plus with people playing here, there and everywhere, there is sort of a mathematical way that people can miss out.

Q. Would you rather see it go to a Presidents Cup, four days??

LEE WESTWOOD: I think it's a good idea to have it over four days. There's a lot of golf, and you know, maybe four ball, four ball and then two lots of greensomes and then the singles on the last day.

Q. Four days last year.

LEE WESTWOOD: Seemed to work. Other than finishing on Monday. More for people to watch, as well. You've got with the weather, you've got more options. Just seems to make sense to me.

DOUG MILNE: Lee, as always.