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June 13, 2001

Lee Westwood


RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to have Lee Westwood with us this morning. Lee, thanks for taking some time out from your preparations to spend a few moments with us. This is Lee's 5th appearance in the U.S. Open. In his previous four appearances he's had a tie for 7th in 1998 and a tie for 5th in 2000. I'm just wondering if you could start by perhaps addressing -- talk a little bit about how the course at Southern Hills fits your game, versus the courses at Olympic and at Pebble Beach, where you had some success in the past.

LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I think U.S. Open venues in general tend to suit my game, because I hit the ball fairly straight. And they don't tend to be overly long, because they use the old traditional style courses a lot. I think there's a lot of thinking involved. On this one it would seem to suit a right-to-left player, more than left-to-right. But I think you can normally get around most courses with straight shots. So I think it's a good course. I enjoyed playing it yesterday, looking forward to the tournament starting.

Q. Do you have any thoughts as to why Europeans have not fared as well in the Open. The last European to win was in 1971 or '70. Any thoughts on why that might be?

LEE WESTWOOD: No, not really. I think obviously Monty was unlucky not to win the U.S. Open, or a couple, that would have swung the balance. But these trends happen. Say, why the trends happen in The Masters where we won a few consecutively. It's a bit unfair to say we didn't do very well last year, the Europeans, in the U.S. Open, if you take out Tiger. Jimenez finished 2nd, Ernie is a European Tour member. Padraig was tied 5th with myself. I think Faldo was a shot further back. It's not bad for the Top-10 in the U.S. Open. There's five I've reeled off or six I've reeled off already. I think last year we proved that we can play U.S. Open courses.

Q. Lee, one British bookmaker said you had a 66 to 1 chance this week. Is that a bit insulating?

LEE WESTWOOD: Do I find it insulating? No, no, I took it (laughter.)

Q. First off, congratulations on the baby.

LEE WESTWOOD: Thank you.

Q. Unlike last year at Pebble Beach, which is a course that many people said suited the European players, it's cool and damp and the links type of style of play. This course features very hot temperatures. The thick bermudagrass you don't find in Europe. How do you think the Europeans will fare, not being accustomed to playing in the heat and hitting out of that type of a rough, is that going to be a major adjustment?

LEE WESTWOOD: I heard most of that about the weather. I didn't hear the last bit.

Q. This course has certain challenges that you don't find in Europe: A, the temperatures are very oppressive

LEE WESTWOOD: I'll address that one first.

Q. You got that one.


Q. And the nature of the rough is something that is very unique to hot climate -- this type of grass you don't find in Europe. I just want to know your thoughts on that?

LEE WESTWOOD: I don't know if you've looked at the European Tour schedule, the first four months of the year encompassed Australia, South Africa, Malaysia, places where it tends to get fairly hot. We do have a fair amount of practice in these conditions. And as far as the rough is concerned, I don't think the rough this week's as severe as other U.S. Open tests I've seen. Certainly around the greens it's not as thick and wiry. You can almost play a proper chip shot out of it. Obviously down the sides of the fairways, you tend to hack out and leave a nice distance in for your third shot, if you do miss the fairways. But certainly around the greens you've got half a chance of getting up-and-down with an almost normal shot. But I think as far as the weather conditions are concerned we play in these conditions regularly at the start of the years. It's pretty hot in Malaysia, if you ever decided to go there.

Q. Lee, a lot has been made about Tiger's streak of four major championships in a row. Where would you rank that among greatest sports feats in history? And what do you think are some of the best feats accomplished in sports?

LEE WESTWOOD: Can I have overnight to think about it? I haven't thought about it, to be honest. I think probably the biggest feat that's ever occurred in golf. I can't really talk about other sports, because I've not really thought about it or looked into it. He obviously did very, very well, nobody ever thought anybody would hold all four majors in one time. That's the stature he has at the moment.

Q. Lee, you've had a lot of time off given the birth of your new child. Give us the state of your game and has that rest helped you or hindered you or are you where you want to be in preparation for the Open?

LEE WESTWOOD: Well, my game is exactly where I want it to be, for the U.S. Open, over the last couple of weeks. My game has improved dramatically each week. I think the rest has -- if you can call two hours sleep -- in periods of two hours sleep rest. If you can call that rest, I think the time off really did me good. I think a break from the game is what I needed after the previous four or five years of playing solid competitive golf with maybe three weeks off being the longest break I had. But as far as my game is concerned it's pretty sharp and I feel good enough to win this week.

Q. Lee, the hole 5, can you drive it in two? Can you get there in two shots?

LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I played it on Monday, and I hit driver, driver on the front edge there. But didn't hit such a good drive down there yesterday, I got a 3-wood down there, because it went in to the right, I got about 10 yards, 15 yards short of the front edge. But I don't particularly think it's a great idea to go for it in two, because it's a very small, severe green. And I think you'll probably make more birdies laying up 80, 90 yards short and hitting it in where you've got more control.

Q. I have a Ryder Cup question. With what happened in '99 and with the books being written by both sides, do you feel the competition has gotten a little too antagonistic and intense?

LEE WESTWOOD: I don't think there's anything wrong with intensity of the competition. I think it's good. I think it's great that both sets of players feel strongly about representing their continents. If it had been me, I wouldn't probably have written a book about the Ryder Cup, but that's just my opinion. I think Jesse (James) is well within his rights to write a book, and so is Ben. But the episode at Brookline is best left alone and forgotten, really. I think both sets of players have learned from it. And I can't see it happening again. You don't particularly want that sort of thing in golf, anyway. I think the game of golf is above that sort of thing.

Q. Lee, how much did you have on yourself at 66 to 1, and does the fact --?

LEE WESTWOOD: I almost put that straight. If I can get 66, I'd be delighted.

Q. You said you're good enough to win, so that's immediately come down?

LEE WESTWOOD: Sorry, I didn't get that.

Q. You wouldn't now, because you've just said you're good enough to win, so I think Ladbrokes is going to react to that quickly.

LEE WESTWOOD: Unless this is going out live to them in England. I should get on the phone as soon as I leave here.

Q. Since you haven't been in contention for a while, does this have any negative effects, or is it like riding a bike?

LEE WESTWOOD: I think it's like riding a bike. I don't know how to put this. I've won 24 times in five years, that's more chances than anybody else has had in the world to win, I suppose, other than one man. So as far as knowing how to win and being in that situation, I've been in it more than anybody else apart from one person. So you might look at other guys that are better shot odds than me, and I've won more recently than them, so I don't think that's a lot to do with it.

Q. 63 is the best single round anyone has shot. With the way technology is going, with the way golfers are getting better and better, is it ridiculous to think 62 could happen in a round at Southern Hills? Is that an unreachable feat or is that a possible thing?

LEE WESTWOOD: I'd like to shake the hand of the man that shoots 62 around here this week. I think this is one of the hardest U.S. Open venues I've seen, but also the fairest. You get exactly what you see. I think it's a great venue and I can't see anybody shooting 62. I don't think technology has advanced that far yet.

Q. Lee, a few suggestions that Tiger added is maybe it was easier than it should have, because players have been scared of him. Do you think that fear exists and what do players do to overcome it?

LEE WESTWOOD: I don't think any major championship is easy. It didn't look particularly easy when he holed it out on the last at the Masters. I had the benefit of watching it on TV, and trust me, winning did not look easy. They put pressure on him and he was able to step up to another level. So I think certain players, he plays with their minds, but I think the realistic contenders for majors, I don't think he would have that effect.

Q. Lee, in looking over this golf course, are there critical set of holes that players have to perform particularly well or be mindful of for them to be successful this week?

LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, 1 through 18. There are no holes out there that you don't have to be particularly mindful of, because as soon as you miss -- as soon as you miss a fairway by a couple of yards, then it immediately becomes a bogey chance. And sometimes if you're on the middle of the fairway and you still have to play your second shot in, there's still a chance you're going to make bogey or double, depending on how you execute your second shot. So there's no particularly stretch of holes. I've watched the TV coverage and people say 7 through 12 is difficult. But trust me, 1 through 7 or 13 through 18 is not an easy stretch. Just finding things to fill their time.

Q. Where are you in your plan to build a swing to win major championships, which a few weeks ago you told us you were going off to do?

LEE WESTWOOD: It's improving very quickly. My game is certainly good enough to win this week. And hopefully it will keep improving all the time. And hopefully it will keep improving as the week goes on. It's ticking along nicely. It's improving quick enough.

Q. About a month ago Jack Nicklaus said in a lengthy interview that while acknowledging the remarkable accomplishments of Tiger, the real test will come to see how he's able to play once you mix in the responsibilities of family and parenthood and that sort of thing, as he did. He was married very young in his career and carted children around in a station wagon and that sort of thing. You're a father now, if you can comment a little bit about the intensity of playing combined with the other responsibilities that you now have, how does that affect your play?

LEE WESTWOOD: Obviously, when you get married and have children it changes your priorities and focuses to a certain extent. But I would say I'm no less focused now than I was this time last year or back in 1998 when I wasn't married to my wife. I think if you find the right person they're a hundred percent supportive behind you and they allow you to get on with what you do well. It's entirely up to him whether he wants to get married. You don't know what he's got planned, do you? I would say one thing: I think Tiger has never had a bad patch in his career, and he may never have a bad patch in his career, but only then, more than getting married and having kids, then we'll find out how good he is, and what kind of person he is, when he does go through a slump, if he should go through a slump, see how he comes out of that at the other end.

Q. You mentioned the fairness of the golf course, and there's been some discussion about 9 and 18 and their relative fairness, do you have any comment about how severe 18 in particular is, and what's going on as far as adjusting that at this point?

LEE WESTWOOD: I don't think 9 is too severe, because 9 is a 3-wood, 9-iron. And I think 18 the green is a little severe. But the 18th hole of the U.S. Open is always going to be difficult.

Q. Will you be able to keep it on the green?

LEE WESTWOOD: I didn't hit a very good driver yesterday and I couldn't reach the green in two. Obviously, I think everybody has said that the 18th green is a little bit severe. The USGA obviously is aware of that and they'll do everything they can to rectify it before the tournament starts tomorrow. What they're going to be able to do is -- well, I don't know -- I don't know how quick they can grow grass, and I don't know how quick they can get the builders in to tilt the front of the green up. So I don't think we'll see much change. If they're sensible with the flag positions I don't think there will be too much of a problem. Somebody will walk off that green Sunday night happy.

Q. Did you get up-and-down?

LEE WESTWOOD: Yes, I did, actually. There, USGA, there's more than one way to skin a cat.

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