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September 30, 2010

Lee Westwood


GORDON SIMPSON: Okay, everyone, well, in time-honoured fashion, I think we'll leave the best to last. We have Europe's No. 1, Lee Westwood with us, and Lee, you have not played competitively since August, so you might as well get the injury bulletin out of the way first and foremost.
LEE WESTWOOD: I haven't really played competitive since The Open Championship. I was fairly non-competitive at Bridgestone.
GORDON SIMPSON: How are you feeling then?
LEE WESTWOOD: Good. I'm looking forward to this week. Worked hard to get here, and obviously pleased to be here. Looking forward to it.
GORDON SIMPSON: Was there any doubt in your mind that you were going to be here today?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, there is. I think when you go through like a rehabilitation process, some weeks it moves quickly. Other weeks, you don't see much of an improvement. It's a bit like building a house, if you go back every day, you don't see much of a change, but if you keep going back sort of monthly -- well, you don't see much change there, either. (Laughter).
So you know, only when I started putting weight to it and hitting more balls the last couple of weeks I sort of really start to allow myself to think about playing this week, and getting emotionally up for it sort of.
It's just because it's something that I've never been through before and you don't know what to expect. It's a bit like being a rookie on The Ryder Cup Team.
GORDON SIMPSON: In terms of the atmosphere in the team room, G-Mac said he felt this one had the X Factor; what's your perception?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, it's good atmosphere in the team room. But we all are getting on very well. It's relaxed. I wouldn't say light-hearted, but some good banter. And when we need to get down to serious stuff, we are all there together as a unit for one goal, really.

Q. Your Ryder Cup debut was at Valderrama, Seve's Ryder Cup; can you talk about what influence he had on your career and what it was like Tuesday night?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, it was good to hear from him Tuesday night for sure. He sounded well, I think. He sounded just as passionate as he always does when talking about The Ryder Cup. He obviously is one of the legends of the game, and instrumental in taking European golf to a world audience, I think; and he did that partly through his own career, but a majority of that through all of that passion he showed in The Ryder Cups. He obviously carried that through to Valderrama when he was captain, as well.
Yeah, he was very passionate that week. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it wound people. But we came out of it at the end of that week with the right result, and that has a lot to do with Seve. I suppose he's a European talisman when it comes to something like that.
It was great to hear -- not that everybody needed a lift, but it gave some of the lads that had not played with him or spent much time with him, that extra idea of what it's all about. I know it was over the phone, but you could still almost see a twinkle in his eyes when he was talking; he was so passionate.

Q. Would your bigger concern be a lack of much fitness, as it were, or not lasting the course in terms of stamina and things; the course is going to be wet. What would be -- if any concern?
LEE WESTWOOD: I don't have too many concerns. I don't have concern with the competitive edge. I've played well in the practise rounds, and I don't see how that's going to change in the competitive rounds. And when the match itself starts, I think I'll be up for it even more.
It's a very difficult golf course to come back to. It's very heavy underfoot, and it's quite hilly in places, and there's quite a lot of slopes, steep slopes to walk up to; 36 holes a day, ideally I would have liked to have broke myself in gently in a tournament with 18 holes a day, but that wasn't possible.
So it's just a case of playing it -- I know as much as you, really, how I'm going to react over the next couple of days. But I wouldn't be here if I don't think I could play five matches.
So if Monty chooses to play me for five, then hopefully I'll be ready for it. I think we've got a strong enough team in depth that we, you know, can rest players, like you said earlier, it is a tough course physically. Maybe the plan would be to rest players.
As much as I hate to admit it, I'm not as young as I used to be where I could play five in a week as easily. There's a few more miles in my legs, and maybe the best way to get maximum out of me is to play me in four, I don't know, or whatever Monty sees fit.
But like I said, if I didn't think I could play five, then I wouldn't be here.

Q. Apart from the injury, you might well be sitting there as world No. 1. Has that been one of the frustrations of the injury happening when it did?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, very frustrating. But at the same time, nobody's stepped up to the plate and grasped the bat and run with it really and gone away from me. I'm quite fortunate in that regard. I expected people around me to -- especially with the tournaments that we have been playing and with so many World Ranking points available in the FedExCup, I expected to be further behind than I am. So I'm quite pleased with the position I'm still in.

Q. Probably playing for it next week.
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I assume so. I don't know. I assume there's a lot of points on offer. But first and foremost on my mind is Ryder Cup.
GORDON SIMPSON: I was told by Ian Barker, our rankings man, that you will be No. 2 next week regardless.
LEE WESTWOOD: I knew that, Gordon.
GORDON SIMPSON: I knew you did.

Q. You have a very good record in The Ryder Cup obviously; can you describe what the most important aspects are?
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, I have a good record in The Ryder Cup because I enjoy match play. I'm very passionate in match play but I don't think I give too many holes away. I hit a lot of fairways and greens, and they set the golf course up for the Ryder Cup fairly demanding.
And like I've always said, in the foursomes and fourballs, I've always been very fortunate to have great partners, partners with I suppose similar games to myself. I've always been paired up with, say, Monty who hits a lot of fairways or Sergio and Darren who are great drivers of the golf ball, and Nick, Søren Hansen.
It's not hard to play well when you've got partners like that. But I think the record is partly due to the intensity that I sort of get together for Ryder Cups.

Q. Colin has said that he felt what might be missing as he understood from Valhalla is a lack of passion; do you think he's restored that passion this week?
LEE WESTWOOD: I think there was a lot of passion at Valhalla. But I think -- I don't think it was directed or guided in the right direction at times. I think we could have pulled it together as a team a lot better at Valhalla.

Q. Here?
LEE WESTWOOD: Here? No, we are all working in the same direction here for sure. This is one of the best atmospheres I've ever been to at a Ryder Cup.

Q. Are you playing with Rory today, or is he just in the same fourball?
LEE WESTWOOD: I'm playing with Rory, yeah.

Q. Were you expecting that?
LEE WESTWOOD: Thinking behind that, we are playing foursomes this afternoon, and I'm playing with Rory. (Laughter) You're a press man, you can draw conclusions, can't you? (Laughter).

Q. So much has been written about Colin Montgomerie not winning a major in his career. Do you think that if he was to captain The European Team to victory, do you think that would write his name in the golfing history books?
LEE WESTWOOD: It would write his name in The Ryder Cup golfing history books, for sure. But I think if you asked him, at the end of the day we are in golf as individuals, and I'm sure he misses not having a major championship on his C.V.

Q. As a guy who played with Colin on Ryder Cup teams, now him switching over to be the captain, how have you seen him as just his personality, or whatnot, to go from a player to a captain?
LEE WESTWOOD: He's a little bit more relaxed this week, I think. His mood swings are less. (Laughter). Having played with him at his peak at the end of the 90s, he can be up and down quite a lot. But I think this week, because whatever he does is directly influenced onto the team, I think he wants to be on an even keel, and sort of nice and calm. So I see that in him a lot more this week.
You know, he's been a good captain, great captain so far, not one foot wrong in my book.

Q. You have six rookies on the team, kind of a different mix than you've been used to player-wise in the past few Ryder Cups here, a couple of guys are obviously not here; what has impressed you about the rookies, and what kind of adjustment do you think that will be?
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, what's impressed me about the rookies, one is Major Champion.
And another is 21 years old and already won in Europe and America, and he's the Top-10 in the world.
Two of them have won the last two qualifying events going into The Ryder Cup; so they can play under pressure.
One is about as steady as it gets, tee-to-green, Francesco, he's unbelievably impressive and qualified, really, quite easily.
Who have I missed out?

Q. Ross.
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, the other one is a World Match Play Champion, and we are playing match play this week. (Laughter).
So what I'm trying to get at is, they are fairly handy at it, and they have travelled the world and played majors and proved that they can cope with the ultimate pressure, which this is this week.

Q. Sam Torrance set up The Belfry really to the advantage of the European side and Azinger did the same thing at Valderrama for the Americans --
LEE WESTWOOD: Sorry, you're going to have to start again. I didn't get the start of your question.

Q. At The Belfry, Sam Torrance set it up to favour the Europeans --
LEE WESTWOOD: Set it up.

Q. And Azinger did the same thing at Valderrama -- it's Valhalla, I'm sorry. It doesn't seem that Colin has done that here. Are you surprised by the setup, and does the setup favour one side over the other?
LEE WESTWOOD: I think Colin set this golf course up for long, straight, good drivers of the golf ball. There's definitely a premium on hitting fairways on this golf course.
I don't really need to say much more than that, do I.

Q. Just to go back to playing five -- you obviously sound like you expect to play two tomorrow, foursomes. The captain has said it's going to be that much more difficult when it's this wet. Do you expect to play five?
LEE WESTWOOD: I don't expect anything. I'm not that presumptuous. I know the strength of the players in the team. And if I weren't to play five, then, you know, there's some great players there to step in.

Q. And the other thing, Colin told us that he informed you all about at least a week ago what you were doing; were you surprised by that, and what was your reaction to being told that early who you would be playing with in the first round?
LEE WESTWOOD: I think it shows confidence in planning; we are not going into it blindly. He's been thinking about it.

Q. Of the matches that get to the 18th hole, Europe has won a vast majority of them, probably from '85 onward. Wonder if you can speak to that, and also what you think of 18 as a closing hole here for the matches that get there?
LEE WESTWOOD: I think 18 is going to be great from a fan's point of view and a player's point of view. There's so many variables on that hole; that's what you want. It takes two great shots to hit the green in two. But at the same time, if you miss the fairway, I suppose you can hack it down there and still make birdie that way. So there's lots of different permutations.
As for why we keep winning the last hole or why we are more successful on the last hole, I really don't know. I know there's a lot of pressure on the last hole and you've got -- I don't know how to put it other than you have to take your balls in your hand, but that's not going out live.
GORDON SIMPSON: It is. (Laughter).
LEE WESTWOOD: Great. Sorry about that. In three deep over there (laughter).
You know, it takes a lot of guts to play that last hole well.

Q. Lee, Europe have had leaders players on the pitch, as it were, like Monty in the past, and that's a role that would seem an obvious one for you, and I wonder if you would be somewhat wary to accept that role given the circumstances of the last few months?
LEE WESTWOOD: No, not at all. I don't mind. I'm going to go out there and try and hit the first fairway in my match. Try and knock it on the green, try and win that first hole, try and win a point that first morning, if I'm playing, of course; don't want to drop any hints.
And I want to see 11 people stood there right behind me following me. I mean, I know everybody can't play, but you know, I think when push comes to shove, if I get out there and chest out, chin up, I suppose I've got the most experience, try and show them how it's done. I think we have got 11 the great players that are well capable of following me through there and playing to the best of their ability.

Q. Miguel was in here earlier on and he was talking about nerves and the fact that in anticipation of tomorrow, he has a knot in his stomach. Do you get any nerves and how do they manifest?
LEE WESTWOOD: I know what he's talking about. There's that nervous excitement. It's a long week. We are here a lot earlier than we normally would be, and obviously the matches start a day later than we would normally start on a Thursday at normal tournaments.
You know, there's that intensity early and the buzz and there's big crowds in the practise rounds and things like that. So, you know, there's that keenness to get going and just to get out, really. But it's a good nervous excitement. Nerves are great as long as you know how to handle them.

Q. You talked a few moments ago about having the guts to go for certain things, and obviously, as you said, you're one of most experienced guys on the team. When it comes time and you decide on certain holes and shots that you're going to go for it, because it's an individual sport, do you defer to that or when you're playing with a partner; do you have to say -- what do you think or defer to that guy, or how do those negotiations work?
LEE WESTWOOD: I think match play is -- you just have to separate it. You have to know when to attack and when to defend. You learn how to do that and read the game.
Sometimes pars are great, and they are going to win you holes. Like I said, I always try to play match play and not give too much away, not make too many bogeys where you give the opposition an easy advantage, but you do that, anyway, when you play in stroke play. So it's just something that you learn to do I suppose and you do it subconsciously in the end.

Q. Are you always on the same page with your partner, or sometimes do you have to convince them one way or another?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, there's a time to go across and put your arm around your partner and say, middle of the green is not going to be bad here, and there's a time to attack.

Q. Wonder when you last had a twinge in your calf, or is it something you're not even thinking about?
LEE WESTWOOD: No, I get the odd twinge, but I think that's age more than anything. Everybody gets twinges here and there. I get a twinge in my back every morning when I get up, but it doesn't mean I have a bad back --

Q. You're not thinking about it?
LEE WESTWOOD: It's not something that was in the back of my mind, I can't hit this one flat out or anything like that. I'm going through the motions as I would if I were 100 per cent fit, but I don't think I've of been that. (Smiling).
It's not really an issue for me.
GORDON SIMPSON: Lee, thank you very much for coming in. Have a great week.

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