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May 8, 2019

Lee Westwood

Hillside, Southport, England

THE MODERATOR: We're going to split this press conference into two parts, so we're going to talk a little bit about this year and then we're going to talk a little bit about next year, which will be embargoed until Sunday, so we'll send the transcript out like that.

Let's start off with this year. You had a nice little break. Are you feeling refreshed and ready to go?

LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I think the main thing of that sentence is yeah, we start off with this year this week. I've hardly played this year. I've played three times in the desert and then two World Golf Championships in México and Austin, so I've only played two tournaments in nearly three months, so looking forward to playing. I've been playing a bit recently, and the game is there or thereabouts, now we'll see how it holds up in competition.

But coming back to somewhere that I've played well in the past and a golf course that I enjoy playing and a tournament I enjoy playing, so it's always nice to play in England in front of the English and British fans, so yeah, I'm looking forward to this week and then kick starting the season and into the major next week and then Made in Denmark the week after.

Q. You mentioned how much you enjoy playing here. It's your 18th appearance in the British Masters. How important is this event for the European Tour?
LEE WESTWOOD: I think it's very important. You know, there's been some great winners here in the past. Seve is a past winner and Greg Norman a past winner, so two heroes of mine growing up, and players I've wanted to emulate. I've been a host a couple years ago. I saw the other side of it, how a tournament is run and what goes into it. I've got a great appreciation for what goes into running the British Masters and others, and now I get to play in the British Masters. It's always been played on some great venues and always attracts a great field and great fans that really seem to enjoy coming to this tournament and supporting it.

Q. (Indiscernible). Can you describe what it was like?
LEE WESTWOOD: I think it's one of those that you sit down with your grandkids and you say, I was there that night. I think it's that big. Just an incredible turnaround, and you would never have sort of thought it was going to happen. But you always sort of hold out hope that they might shake things up a bit and get some momentum. But like the last day at Medinah, you kind of think this is not going to happen but let's give them a scare, and all of a sudden the momentum goes with you and the crowd get on your side, and it was incredible. So many good performances on the field. Trent Arnold I thought was incredible. But (indiscernible) finishing it off.

One of the nicest things for me was at the end when it was all said and done and the Liverpool fans were -- taking the applause from the Liverpool fans as they were walking off, all the Barcelona fans were in full applause, clapping for the team and what a good a performance it was. Even the opposition could appreciate it.

Q. I suppose it shows it's never over until the last minute. Is that inspirational for an old man like you? (Laughter.)
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I mean, everybody loves a comeback, don't they, especially when it's somebody that's a little older in years, because the advantage we have of being old is people have been watching us for a long time, so they've watched us as kids, and growing up through the years, and they've had a long bit to sort of bond with us and get to know us. When you do get to our age, early to mid 40s, it seems more special. It seems like you can share it with more people and more people can relate to it, yeah.

Q. Do you still have the same ambitions with this sort of reduced schedule it feels like? Do you have that same ambition to go out there?
LEE WESTWOOD: They're different ambitions now really. I'm not the person that I was 20 years ago physically and mentally and just been through more things, experienced more things. I can't really compare myself to the Lee Westwood of the late '90s or even 2000s. It's still 10 years on. I have to set new goals and have new ambitions and things like that. But I know when I have a week on and I'm playing well and my game is in good shape I can still contend at any level, so I've still got ambitions in the game, yeah.

Q. You proved that, didn't you, (indiscernible).
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, and I came close in Denmark, as well. And I'm competing on different kinds of golf courses, aren't I. Even the following week from winning at Nedbank I played well the following week in Dubai, and that's a long course, so I can play well on long courses and then I can play well on the short courses, Denmark, and Valderrama I played well where you have to keep it in play and be straight. It's not like there's one sort of set style of course that's going to suit me from now on. I can still compete on all the courses, it's just a case of getting everything in shape for that one week. You know, I do tend to play well when I get up in a tournament. It's no surprise I didn't play so well in Austin. I supposed I played well in México, but only playing two tournaments in three months is not really enough, especially not enough for me. I need to be competitive more than that to get sort of match fit, and I have sort of a run of tournaments now until the end of the year. I've played five so far this year, and I think I'll get up to about 22 or 23, so 17 and 18 for the second half of the season is quite a lot, really, for an old man like me.

Q. Are you looking forward to a soggy week next week? Looks like it could be a bit of a slog.
LEE WESTWOOD: It's hard to tell with a golf course like that. I've played it in different conditions. It plays -- probably plays easier when it's softer, but obviously we'll never have played it in May when New York can be a bit chilly, can't it, a bit damp. The ball won't be going very far, so it'll play into the longer hitters' hands. But the greens will be slower probably, and the speed of the greens there is always one of its defenses. I've played it in August in the Barclays, and that kind of grass gets a bit wobbly, shall we say. Reminds me of like the old Wentworth greens when the grass seeds. I think the greens might be a better surface in May when there's still moisture in them. I wouldn't know what to expect. But if it is going to be cold and a bit heavy, you would think it would suit the longer hitters, but I'm still long enough to get around most places, so why not, and the last time I played there I finished fifth.

Q. Your thoughts on this week? You've played well around this golf course.
LEE WESTWOOD: I have, yes. I won the Pines Trophy in 1990, yeah, 29 years ago. I think I won by six. I remember the first bogey -- it was a tricky day, something like today. I think the first bogey made was on the 15th in the afternoon. I think I made --

Q. You put the lights out, too, from what I've heard.
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I always put the lights out to be honest. I remember playing very well that day. I think I won by about six, yeah.

Q. (Indiscernible).
LEE WESTWOOD: It's one of those great English links golf courses, you know, that over the years unfortunately technology has sort of taken over it a little bit with regards to the length of it. But I've always played it and thought it was every bit as good as next door, just without the length. I think it's one of those like hidden gems that a lot of people don't play, but if they can, they just love playing it. Everything just looks great. It's very fair, and it just sets up lovely.

Q. What did you make of Tiger Woods at the Masters, and how do you see his comeback going from here?
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, class is permanent, that's what they always say, and he proved it. He proved that once you're a winner and you know how to win a golf tournament, regardless of whether you've not won one for a while or been in contention -- I mean, he has been in contention but you can switch back into it. He played well. He wasn't spectacular, he wasn't knocking out all the flags. I think that's the sort of preconception that people get when he was in his prime he was knocking out all the flags, holing all the putts, hitting all the fairways. He wasn't. A lot of tournaments he kind of just did enough to win the tournament, and that's what I got a feel for the Sunday of the Masters. I didn't watch all of it, but when people were knocking it in the water on 12, you could see a little glint in his eye like the door had opened for him, just to not be too aggressive, just to push it slightly open by hitting the middle of the green and then making a 3, don't make the same mistake as them. The way he played and where he hit it coming in, he was hitting it into the safe spots some of the time and birdieing the par-5s like he should and getting up-and-down like he should and making those five-, six-footers like he should. I just thought it was a typical professional Tiger Woods performance really.

Q. What do you see beyond this for him?
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, he's got a terrible record around Bethpage and Pebble Beach, hasn't he? (Laughter).

No, I envisage him to be in contention at those two. Who knows with Portrush. But he is probably at the stage of his career where he's just trying to peak for the major championships, because let's face it, if he wins like a regular TOUR event, there will be another TOUR event, but if he wins major championships, that's kind of where he's moved up another level.

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