An Interview With: Lee Westwood

JULIUS MASON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the 86th PGA Championship. Lee Westwood joining us, making his eighth appearance in the PGA Championship.

Lee, welcome to the event, some opening thoughts and we'll go to Q&A.

LEE WESTWOOD: Obviously delighted to be here. I played the golf course yesterday. It's very demanding, difficult golf course. Settled very well, playing okay. I'm looking forward to getting started.

Q. Curious what you think about the finishing stretch of holes, and particularly 17 and 18, the difficult two closing holes.

LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, they are very difficult. 15 is a very long par 4. It was into the wind yesterday. It was driver, 2-iron.

16 was 2 and then a sand iron.

17 was 2-iron to the front part of the green. Don't know what it would be to the back.

18, we had no clue how to go and and ended up hitting it too far left and dropping it in the fairway. So a 6- or 5-iron in from where we would hit it, and 3-wood or driver off the tee.

That should sort the men out from the boys.

Q. Lee, it's been called a monster and so on. Do you think the golf course is too difficult?

LEE WESTWOOD: Well, I've been told before I got here that there were ten really difficult holes and eight impossible ones. I'm just trying to work out which the ten difficult holes were.

You know, I think we were walking around yesterday and I think it's a very, very difficult golf course, almost a little too difficult, really. Almost seems a bit too long.

Q. What do you think is the most difficult part of this course? Is it the length? What's the biggest challenge?

LEE WESTWOOD: It's obviously very long, the length. Three or four par 4s that measure over 475, I think. When you get to the end, the greens are very, very tricky to get -- when you're hitting 2-iron into a par 4, you get up there, you've got two good shots and you've got a great big mound in the way. It's difficult to get your putt close. That obviously makes it very difficult.

It will be interesting. I don't know which -- I don't really know what to tell you. If you asked me to predict a winning score, I'd have no idea whatsoever. Guys might find it easy and I would think -- I would be happy to finish under par.

Q. The idea of coming in early and familiarizing yourself with a golf course is new to everybody. How much of a help is that? And secondly, moving on from Troon where you had such a good performance, are there any similar ties to the links courses you will play at home compared to the course here?

LEE WESTWOOD: I've forgotten the first question. I think it was very beneficial coming in early, mainly because of the fact that I normally sort of turn up on a Monday, you don't get much done on a Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday; you try to cram it all in. By the time Thursday comes around you're quite tired. You don't want to be spending eight or nine hours at the golf course the day before the tournament starts.

So by coming in early, I've played a practice round yesterday and I might just play nine holes today, nine holes tomorrow and just take it easy on Wednesday and just work on my pitching, chipping and putting and feel fresh when the tournament starts on Thursday. That's the main reason I'm coming early. Not with the fact that nobody has played the golf course before, just the fact that I want to be rested and fresh by time the tournament starts and still know a lot about it.

Q. What are the similar ties to the links courses?

LEE WESTWOOD: I know that people said that we are playing three links courses this year in the majors, but to be honest, they are all completely different. Rarely do you get links courses with the speed of the greens of Shinnecock. That was the main thing about that course. The course was fantastic when we got there Tuesday, Wednesday. It played very difficult Thursday, Friday but fair. They just lost control on of the greens and it became unfair on the weekend.

Troon is as good as I've seen a links course set up. You can't really do a lot with Troon, to be honest, it's all there in front of you. They kept the greens at a reasonable pace. The rough was not too difficult.

And then this, the rough is probably not as thick as the other PGAs we've played, but they have taken the slope and the wind into consideration with the speed of the greens, so they have kept them, I wouldn't say slow, but not as fast as they normally would be.

So, you know, although all three are going to be played in quite strong winds, they are all quite different in their own ways. So it will be interesting to see what happens this week, how it sort of behaves in the conditions and how the players tackle it.

Q. What do you think the complaint level will be by the end of the week?

LEE WESTWOOD: On Sunday night, there will certainly be somebody with no complaints at all.

Q. Does this have the possibility of a Carnoustie, of a Shinnecock, of some of the other major venues?

LEE WESTWOOD: Well, I think they have set the course up fantastic. The rough is not ridiculous. Some of the fairways are a little narrow in certain places. The second shot up 15, the fairway goes right across you. I guess you have probably got about ten yards to land your second shot. It was into the wind yesterday. Obviously, they might be expecting it to play two shots, but yesterday it was driver, 3-iron and sand iron. So that's all dependent on the wind.

So, there will be people with complaints, but it won't do any good. It won't affect the way they set up the course.

Q. Along those lines, which do you think of the four organizations, which do you think does the best job of setting up a golf course between the USGA, R&A, Augusta National and here?

LEE WESTWOOD: Well, I can't comment on Augusta National this year because I wasn't there. I've played before.

I preferred Augusta when it played with no rough. I think it's taken a little away from the Masters that there's rough there now. It was always quite nice the ball would run away, it would keep running and running and you would never know where it's going to stop.

The U.S. Open, the USGA generally does a great job. This year, they just made a mistake like the R&A made a mistake at Carnoustie, but you learn from those mistakes, hopefully as the R&A have done over the last few years. Lytham, when David Duval won, fantastic conditions. Troon this year was set up great.

Everybody has an off-day, so you can be forgiven that. And the USGA normally set up golf courses great, and this week is no different. It is set up fantastically well. It's just going to be very tough tee-to-green.

Q. Do you see a difference in philosophy in setups with the organization?

LEE WESTWOOD: Not a massive difference, no. It's difficult to tell this year because the three golf courses are going to play similar. Not the same, but very similar.

Q. When you played yesterday, how firm were the fairways, and with the forecast looking a little wet, how do you think that will affect the way the golf course plays later in the week?

LEE WESTWOOD: It wasn't that firm yesterday. It wasn't that much run on the ball. There's quite a lot of grass on the fairways. If it gets softer, it always makes the course play wider. The ball pitches and stops rather than running away. Obviously it will play a bit longer, which is just what we need.

Q. You mentioned that someone might play this course well. Does anyone come to mind? Does this course in your opinion set up for anybody in particular, given what you've seen so far?

LEE WESTWOOD: Probably going to be a long straight hitter with a good iron game and a great short game and a wonderful putter. (Laughter.)

Well, hopefully it's me, but I think the main key to this week will be patience more than anything. You know, it's not going to be a course that -- well, I don't think it's going to be a course that somebody is going to go out there and make lots of birdies and go out there and shoot sort of 16-, 17-under a round. Somebody may prove me wrong. But I think it's going to be a course for grinding out lots of pars and limiting your mistakes as most majors are.

Q. Your approach to the practice rounds are not getting too crazy. Can you get too much of this course in the practice rounds and be mentally beat when you tee it up on Thursday?

LEE WESTWOOD: No, I don't think so. I think it's a course that you need to play a few times because there's quite a few blind tee shots out there and there's quite a few different ways to play the holes, certain holes out there. I played with Darren yesterday and he's a bit longer than me and a straight driver, and he hit driver in a lot of places. I hit 4-iron, sand iron to the same holes where he's hitting driver ten yards short of the front edge.

It gives you options out there, but I would not say it's a course that you can play too much before the tournament starts. I think it certainly needs a little bit of knowing.

Q. Quick Ryder Cup question, the American team is decided after this week. What do you think that would be like to have the final tournament come in a major, as opposed to the way you guys have got it? Not to slag the BMW International, but do you think it would be two too difficult to have two tournaments in one, so to speak?

LEE WESTWOOD: I think as far as Ryder Cup qualification is concerned, everybody really thinks about it but really shouldn't be. If you spoke to Fred Funk -- and if you're looking at that now, and so is Steve Flesch, Jerry Kelly, Stewart Cink, Jeff Maggert, Scott Verplank, Chris DiMarco, if they come here and just concentrate on playing well in the PGA, the Ryder Cup really takes care of itself, as it does for the full term of the qualification, the Ryder Cup.

You know, Ryder Cup points is not something that you can really think about. I would say ours is slightly better because it leads up to, closer to the tournament itself. So, you know, you've got more of a chance of somebody getting in last minute who is playing well and on a roll. A lot can happen in the two or three weeks leading up to the Ryder Cup. People's form can come and go, and somebody that's right on the edge, say John Daly, might play well this week, get close to getting in but not quite, be in the 11th spot, but then he might win next week and it's totally turned on its head and he would not be on the team, but if it was the Ryder Cup qualification the European way, he would probably get straight on the team.

There will never be the right system for qualifying for the Ryder Cup Team. It will never be perfect, but I think ours is pretty good at the moment.

Q. It was announced that there was a little bit of traffic out there and that's why you were late. Can you describe your trip in and where you were coming from, and did you get a taste of Wisconsin farm fields out there?

LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I saw most of Wisconsin this morning. I'm staying probably 15 minutes away, but it turned into 50 minutes this morning.

I'm sure I've come the wrong way. I'm sure there's a right way for me to come in, a players' sort of route, but I only managed to find the last bit of it. So I'll have to get a yardage chart out and try to find my way around.

It's a bit like the course, really. I suppose there's more than one way of playing it.

Q. Going back to the Ryder Cup, how do you like the way the European team is setting up right now?

LEE WESTWOOD: I think it looks pretty good, actually. I think down to David Howell, I think probably the last two spots are up for grabs still. Ian Poulter will be sweating a bit but quietly confident he's going to get in. And Joakim Haeggman needs a couple of good weeks, and then it's up to everybody else to force those two out. There's a good mix of experience and rookies in there, and older generation players, I suppose, and younger generation. You can split that the way you want, the older players and younger players. So it will be good.

Q. It's a good thing that guys are in form, fighting for the last few places. Isn't that a good sign?

LEE WESTWOOD: That's a great sign. The more players that are playing well this time of the year, the stronger the team becomes.

Q. In the practice round that you've done, has the wind shifted a lot and caught from your practice rounds which is the most difficult wind direction out there?

LEE WESTWOOD: It's very difficult to tell. I only had the one practice round yesterday, but I spoke to somebody from the PGA yesterday and they said the wind was the opposite direction on Saturday, and we played in the 15th, played driver 2-iron and he said the day before it was playing driver, 9-iron. That can obviously make a massive difference, but then you've got holes playing in the opposite direction, like the ninth that we hit 3-wood, sand iron to. You can imagine if that turned around and came into there, it's a very tight green, very small green, very tight fairway that could play driver -- I don't know, I'm just guessing, driver, 6-iron, I suppose, driver, 5-iron. And then par 5s at 618 yards like the 11th, we hit it over the corner and hit driver, 4-iron in, would be completely unreachable, but then 16 would become reachable. I think it's a good mix.

It's a typical links course. It will change character dramatically, dependent on the wind, which is what a links golf is all about. You're not going to have the tide changing the wind here, so that will almost make it a fairer links test than it would playing on the coast, somewhere like St. Andrews where you can play the front nine downwind and the wind can change on you and you play the back nine downwind. I think it will be a good test. I think whoever wins it will obviously have deserved to have won it and will undoubtedly have a game with very few flew flaws in it at the end of the week because you need need all of your game this week. Every part of your game has got to be spot eye on.

Q. Of all the majors, this one has proven particularly difficult for European players to win. Do you see that changing this week?

LEE WESTWOOD: It could change this week. I don't think we've ever played a course like this before in the PGA. I think the courses we've played, Winged Foot, Medinah, Valhalla, places like that, Hazeltine, I sort of class them more of a typical American-style course. Whereas this, I was trying to think what it reminded me of yesterday, and it didn't really remind me of anywhere. It's quite unique. So it could favor European golfers.

But I think you look at the quality of the players around the world, I think everybody seems to be able to play in all conditions, to be perfectly honest. That's just the way it is nowadays. You've got to have a good all-around game for all conditions.

Q. With all of the sand and bunkers out here, what do you think of the way they are playing the bunkers, basically all as hazard, not being able to ground your club, and do you see any place where that could become an issue where you might get a spot where you don't have what you would normally get, a lie that you would normally get in a bunker?

LEE WESTWOOD: Well, they are hazards at the end of the day, so if you go in them, you should be penalized. I think too much in the past, guys are better out of bunkers than they are out of thick, long rough. If the ball is going towards the bunker, you see people going in the bunker, which is not being what in a hazard is all about. I think you should be penalized. I think the traps here are exactly what they should be.

Q. Have you ever heard of Brett Favre?

LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I have.

Q. Bart Starr?


Q. Do you know anything about the Packers?

LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah. Are you going to test me now? Just curious.

Q. Just curious, are you an American football fan at all?

LEE WESTWOOD: I watch it occasionally. We get it quite a lot at home, but it's not a massive sport in England.

Q. Setting you up here, do you have a favorite team?

LEE WESTWOOD: Do I have a favorite team? Green Bay? (Laughter.)

JULIUS MASON: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

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