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August 12, 2009

Lee Westwood


KELLY ELBIN: Westwood, ladies and gentlemen, with us at the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club. This will be Lee's 13th PGA Championship, his best finish, a tie for 15th in the year 2000.
Lee, you're coming off a third place finish at the British Open last month, congratulations on that. Thoughts on your game coming in and also from what you've seen in Hazeltine in the practice rounds.
LEE WESTWOOD: My game has been pretty solid just recently. Like you said, I finished third at The Open Championship, I had a good chance there; played well at Loch Lomond, and played well last week after a couple of weeks off, a bit of rusty start. 1-under is not really a good enough score but finished off strongly with a 65 in the last round. I'm pleased with the way things are going. I'm hitting it good.
Golf course is very good. Long as everybody has suggested.
KELLY ELBIN: Any particular holes stand out from what you've seen?
LEE WESTWOOD: There's a stretch around the back nine where it gets quite long. 12 is a very long par 4. 13 was, well, 265 when we played it yesterday, even though it says 248 on the thing here. 15 is obviously a long par 5, too, so you have two, three holes there that are quite long.
But obviously with a golf course that's got four par 5s on it, you still expect scoring to be pretty good. It's pretty generous off the tee. You've got fairway width -- but if you start missing fairways, obviously the rough is penal. If you hit it good tee-to-green, you're going to have a few birdie chances, I would imagine.

Q. After Turnberry, are you glad you can get back on the major bike so quickly, so to speak, that it's only been a few weeks and you can really get up there and go for it again?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, it's helpful that the majors are only four weeks apart. You know, if I would have had that third-place finish, say, this week, with eight months to think about it between this and the Masters, then, you know, that would have been a bit trickier.
There's a lot of big tournaments this time of year that I can use the confidence again from the Open Championship to go into. So that's what I've been trying to do.

Q. You've been described recently as probably the best driver of the ball in the game at the moment. Are you a bit unhappy that it is generous off the tee here?
LEE WESTWOOD: It's not overly generous. You know, and I have been driving the ball well, whether that's down to the work I've been doing in the gym, or you know, the PING driver that I've been using for a while. I got a new PING driver this week that seems even better, the i15.
Driving has always been a strong part in my game, and you know, I plan to use that this week. Hit driver as often as possible, which will obviously help shortening the course a little bit.

Q. How many holes?
LEE WESTWOOD: Now you're testing me; got to remember them. I think there are about eight or nine drivers out there. There are certain holes that allow you to hit 3-wood, like the second with the dogleg, but if you wanted to, you could be aggressive and hit driver over the corner.
It's a good course in that regard in that it gives you options. And it's a good course with regard to the way that they can set it up. I think the PGA has options moving tees around. I don't think we'll have to play 12 right off the back if they don't want to. Yesterday that was -- well, for me, driver, 4-iron, and I played with Rory and Darren, and you know, I was longer than them off the tee and I was going in with 4-iron.
And I watched Sergio when I was coming down the 15th playing that hole, and he must have been hitting 4-iron in as well. So if the longer hitters are hitting 4-iron in there, some people are going to be going in there with a wood, which that green is probably not meant for a wood.
So they will probably shift that tee around a little bit, and maybe the next, the par 3, and even the one after that, the 14th, drivable, occasionally.

Q. A year or two ago, you obviously made a big effort on your fitness and your short game. Are they both as good as they need to be now in terms of starting to win majors, are you happy with where they are?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I think so. I think it's a bit longer than that with the fitness. But obviously that's a long-term thing and that wasn't just with the immediate future in mind. It was more of a long-term thing, too, so I can play well into my mid-40s. But my short game was somewhere that needed improving and that's improving all the time. I do feel like I'm getting up-and-down when I should. I haven't been leaving too many shots out there.
So that all helps with regards to keeping momentum going out there, with scoring, rolling obviously three shots into two, and occasionally one, is a good thing for momentum of a round. It can keep a round going.
Yeah, it's all -- and I think majors recently have shown that it's pretty good; anything can improve, but I'm pleased with the way things are going.

Q. Have you played the last round over in your mind from the Open and anything you would have changed?
LEE WESTWOOD: The second shot into 16, I was trapped between clubs there, and I didn't know whether to sling a big wedge in, second shot off the ditch, or try and hold up a 9-iron in a 25-mile-an-hour right-to-left wind (laughter).
It was always going to be a tricky shot. The 16th hole proved to be difficult all week. And it was six of one and half a dozen of the other as to which club I should have hit and who knows where wedge would have gone. I was worried about not quite reaching and spinning back into the water.
I felt I was a bit unlucky the last few holes with the shot at 15; you can keep playing it over and over in your mind, but what good does that do.

Q. In terms of momentum, how important was last Sunday's round and that week on a tough course at Firestone?
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, very important. I mean, I hit it pretty good -- well, very good tee-to-green most of the week. Gave myself a lot of birdie chances and my proximity to the hole stats were, I think after two or three rounds, were sort of -- well, I think after two rounds was 20 feet. Well, that's an amazing stat, really, when you think about it, and then it went to about 26 and then I got it down to about 25 after four rounds.
You know, that's how close I was hitting it regularly, and I didn't make enough putts the second and third days. I had loads of chances, and then just rolled a couple of 10-, 15-footers in the last day and that has given me impetus and momentum coming into this week. Because you can play well and finish 27th, 28th being level par the last round and won't really do you that much good. But if you shoot 65 and finish ninth, it's obviously a big difference mentally, as well.
KELLY ELBIN: Lee's closing 65 earned him a ninth-place finish at Bridgestone.

Q. What do you consider the most dangerous holes on this course, the ones that are likely to give you some trouble trying to decide what to do, or just the very difficult holes.
LEE WESTWOOD: I think the stretch 12 through to -- well, the last six holes probably, seven holes. There's a couple of -- obviously where they come in the scheme of the golf course, especially at the weekend and especially Sunday towards the end, but 12 is a difficult par 4. 13 is a tough par 3. 14 is one of those holes in your mind where you're thinking birdie and it can soon turn around and you can make bogey.
15, you have to hit a good tee shot or else you're laying up to a distance where you could be going in there with 5-iron.
16 speaks for itself with all of the water.
17 is a tricky little par 3.
And 18 is obviously a lot longer now, a long hole, 475 yards uphill and it was into the wind yesterday so it was driver, 4-iron. It's a demanding finish. But like I said earlier, if you hit the ball well, and they do shift the tees around a bit, you know, 12 could play downwind and they could move the tee up 50 yards and it's 470 and then we could be going in with an 8-, or 9-iron and then you're looking at a birdie hole. There's lots of variations so it's difficult to say.
I think last holes come Sunday will produce some excitement.

Q. Tiger was in yesterday and he suggested that he was a better player now than in 2000; do you think you're a better player now, and if your answer is yes, I wonder if you can explain Why?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I feel I'm a better player now than I was in 2000. I feel better equipped for the bigger tournaments now than in 2000, certainly. Less weaknesses in my game, short game is obviously a lot stronger. I think I hit the ball a little bit better tee-to-green as well. I think that's improved.

Q. Can you comment on the IOC's upcoming decision to possibly include golf in the upcoming Olympics?
LEE WESTWOOD: When it was initially mentioned to me I was a bit against it because I was of the view that an Olympic gold medal should be the pinnacle of your sport; whereas in golf, I don't think it's ever going to be like that with the four major championships. They are always what people are going to be judged by in the years to come.
But having sat down with people who have obviously sat in meetings about it and know more about it than me, that have told me, you know, what being involved with the Olympics and the fun that can come from being in the Olympics and the broadness of people that are obviously going to watch the Olympics that have never seen golf before, it could involve more people in different countries, as well, take it to more countries; then I think it's probably a good thing.

Q. We're not far from getting an 8,000-yard course, this is not far away from it; did it all become a bit silly and a slog for you guys?
LEE WESTWOOD: I think when you look at recent tournaments, whether it be majors or even regular events where the scores haven't been as low, it's sometimes not the longest golf courses. You look at Turnberry, that's not the longest golf course. If you ask players how many drivers they hit, they didn't hit many drivers around Turnberry; yet, the winning score was still 2-under par.
There are different ways of combatting low scoring. Obviously lengthening golf courses is one of them. But I am of an opinion where if you tighten a golf course up and make the penalties for missing fairways and greens greater, that will combat low scoring.
But at the same time, we're in the entertainment industry, and I think people would rather see birdies. I've never been too worried about 18-under par or 16-under par winning tournaments. Some of the most exciting tournaments are where there's been lots of birdies.
I mean, I would rather sit and watch people make birdies rather than hitting into the rough and hack out and making bogey. How about you? Maybe sadistic, I don't know. (Chuckling).

Q. This is the last square-groove major that will be played. You know the setup at the four major sites on an annual basis. Could you go through Augusta, the U.S. Open, The Open Championship and the PGA and how the square groove changes will impact, typically would impact each of those events? I know the golf courses will differ year-to-year except for Augusta, but how will each one be impacted by square grooves?
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, I won't go through all of them, but I will say that the more technically gifted chippers and pitchers of the golf ball will still be the best chippers and pitchers of the golf ball with the groove change. Phil Mickelson will still have a fantastic short game. There will be certain shots he won't be allowed to play because of the technology. But generally, you won't see the low-spinning one quite as much. You'll see players having to stop it more with flight than the low checky one. And when you get in the rough around the greens, it will be a little harder.
I'm all for the groove change because I don't miss too many greens on the stats. I tend to be pretty good tee-to-green. It's the people that miss a lot of fairways and a lot of greens that are going to suffer more.

Q. How much help is it to the rest of the Europeans this week knowing that Harrington ended the European drought in this event last year?
LEE WESTWOOD: I don't really think it makes too much of a difference. I don't think many of us really pay attention to that. Obviously we all notice that Padraig won last year, but you know, I think all of the guys that you would expect to compete this week are in their own minds thinking they are capable of winning here, whether Padraig won last year or not.

Q. Are you one of those?

Q. Do you go into --
LEE WESTWOOD: You've gone off.

Q. Do you go into a major with a different mind-set now because of what you've done over the last year or so in majors?
LEE WESTWOOD: I think just missing out on the playoff by a shot at Torrey Pines, and then again three weeks ago at the Open, is not just a coincidence. It's the fact that my game has improved a lot, and especially my short game has improved a lot.
Results like that make me go home, sit down and think, you know, I'm obviously continually proving to myself that I'm good enough to win a major, and it's just a case of keep repeating the same process and getting in there over and over again and eventually winning one.

Q. You've had almost two years now of playing consistently really well without doing what used to come naturally in winning; how mentally worrying is that? Have you thought about the sports psychology route, and do you think you would have won the Open if you had not been waiting so long for a win?
LEE WESTWOOD: No, I don't know the reason why I haven't won for a couple of years, since The Belfry. I've certainly had lots of chances. And when I've had chances, I haven't done anything particularly wrong. You know, I seem to have done the right things.
You only have to look at Padraig a few years ago. All he seemed to be doing was finishing second. It's just one of those things in golf where you can play as good as you feel you can play and somebody just does something a little bit different or a little bit better.
But for a couple of putts here and there, I might be sitting here with six wins since The Belfry two years ago. It's a very fickle game. And all you can do is keep repeating the same process, like I said, and the one that you think is going to improve you, and eventually, you just have to wait for things to turn around, not panic.

Q. I was going to ask, or dare I ask, have you thought about using a sports shrink or not, or is that something that you've never --

Q. -- fancied doing, because you don't think they could do much for you? Obviously no.
LEE WESTWOOD: No, look at them all, they all look a bit odd, like they need to see somebody, I find it a bit hard to take anybody like that serious. (Laughter).
Well, they do. I'm sorry. That's the way I see it. I've always felt mentally quite stable. Don't feel like I need it. (Laughter).
KELLY ELBIN: Lee Westwood, off at 8:45 tomorrow morning. Thank you for your time.

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