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November 3, 2010

Lee Westwood


SCOTT CROCKETT: All right, everyone, thank you very much, and a great pleasure to welcome Mr. Lee Westwood to the World Golf Championships - HSBC Champions and that pleasure has increased because we are now sitting with the world No. 1.
Lee, that must be sound very nice. Your thoughts on taking that position.
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, obviously it does sound very nice. It's the pinnacle of the sport really. And it was very exciting to get there on -- well, Sunday afternoon; one stroke Monday morning. And it is one thing getting there, but it's another thing staying there. It's obviously very close at the moment.
It's going to be tough this week. I have to play well, which may not be easy because I'm bound to be a bit rusty because I've not played a lot just recently. So it should be a good week for everybody.
SCOTT CROCKETT: It's the culmination of two great years for you, Lee, certainly a deserved honour. Just give us your thoughts on the last two years.
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I've been playing very consistently for a couple of years now. You don't all of a sudden shoot to the top of the World Rankings. It's not based like that. You have to play consistently well and well in the bigger events, as well.
I've finished top three and four in the last four or five Majors I've played, and played well in THE PLAYERS and three wins in the last year.
So you know, it's a shame that the injury came along with when it did, because I was accumulating so many World Ranking points up until the injury that, you know, it sort of delayed getting to No. 1 almost.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Just give us your thoughts on the injury. How is the leg?
LEE WESTWOOD: It's taking a lot longer to recover. It's still not right. But I was getting bored of sitting at home doing nothing, and all of the people I've seen have said I can't do anymore damage to it, so to come out and the walking around may do it a little bit of good.
But I'm taking it gently. I'm not playing too much. Just this one week. I was supposed to play in the Barclays Singapore Open next week, but I've had to pull out of that. Have a couple of weeks off just to let it calm down a little bit and then start again at the Dubai World Championship and then hopefully the Million Dollar at Sun City the week after that.
But you know, that's not ideal because I would like to play a run of tournaments to get a bit of form together. But you know, the end of this year, really, I'm not going to say is a write-off but I'm not too worried about the way I play, because a haven't played a lot. I do feel very rusty and haven't played a lot, and this part of the year is really just a gauge towards being right for the start of next season.

Q. Now that you're No. 1 and you have the chance ever four players becoming No. 1 by the end of the week including yourself, can you comment on what it means for the game of golf in terms of the worldwide interest and it being more competitive compared to the last five years where Tiger was so dominant? Can you talk about that a bit, please?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I think it's an interesting time for golf. You know, it is I think a lot more interesting when it's more volatile with who can become world No. 1.
You know, Martin has obviously played very consistently just recently. Phil and Tiger have been at the top of the World Rankings for a while. I suppose, as I have myself, as well. I think for the neutral who doesn't normally watch golf, it's captured their imagination.

Q. Nick Faldo was in Hainan last week and he said that in order to kind of cement your position, you have to go on and win a Major and this should inspire you to actually do that. Is that something that you would hold with?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I would agree. I didn't need Nick to tell me that. That's fairly obvious.
You know, I've had quite a good career so far, but a Major has been missing and I have performed well in the Majors over the last couple of years. I've given myself a lot of chances and I haven't managed to finish it off.
I suppose getting to world No. 1, you look at the stats and the previous world No. 1s and that they have all won major championships; it would be nice to join that club as well.
You know, all I can do is keep putting myself in position and giving myself chances at winning, which I have done over the last couple of years.

Q. Could you tell us a little bit more about your relationship to Martin Kaymer? We heard he sent you a congratulation, short message last weekend after you became No. 1.
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, he sent me a text on Sunday. It must have been as he was on his way to the airport I guess from finishing at Valderrama.
Yeah, I get on really well with Martin; I have done a couple of years now. I think playing with him in The Ryder Cup, you obviously bond a bit more and build that relationship. I have a lot of respect for Martin and his game. I think part of the reason why we were paired together in The Ryder Cup is because we have similar games.
Well, he's a superstar of right now in the game of golf, never mind the future; if you sometimes forget, is he only, 24, 25? So, you know, he's a good player and I expect him to be hanging around the top of the World Rankings for quite some time.

Q. Just now you mentioned your injury has not been fully recovered. My question is, what is the impact of your injury on this tournament? You will have some adjustment at this tournament; what kind of adjustment are you talking about? This time Tiger came as well, he has been really doing well after The Ryder Cup; you will be fighting for the No. 1 post. Will you feel pressure from that?
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, I don't feel any added pressure being world No. 1 and turning up at a tournament, there's pressure, you know -- the pressure is what you make it, really.
You know, I'm No. 1 in the World Rankings because I've played well. So I have no idea how I'm going to play this week because I haven't played much of a schedule just recently because of my injured leg.
And unfortunately, when I've been away from tournaments, I haven't been able to practise and I've just been resting it. So that's just the state of where it is at the moment. It's unfortunate that it's happened and when it happened, but you know, it's just a case of managing it at the moment and edging my way through and really getting ready for next year.
Obviously I wanted to come and play this tournament, it's a massive tournament, probably the biggest tournament in Asia and it's a world-class field. And it's nice to turn up to it as world No. 1.

Q. You've chosen to remain full-time as a member of The European Tour and not go to the United States and play on the PGA Tour. Did you think long and hard before doing that, or was it quite an easy decision for you to make?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, it as quite a long, hard decision. It wasn't easy. There were a lot of different factors that went into it. But I just felt at the end of the day, what I was doing at the moment has enabled me -- my main goal is to play well at the majors.
What I'm doing at the moment has enabled me to do that. I've obviously got to the majors in the right frame of mind and my game in the right shape. The way I've done it has also enabled me to get to world No. 1. So it must be -- the way I'm doing it must be pretty right for me, so why change it? Why not just carry on with that and just improve everything slightly. I think that was maybe the trap I felt into ten years ago where I tried to change everything too radically and maybe do things that weren't -- didn't keep me in a good frame of mind.
And now I just try and do everything to keep myself happy, basically. And I only really thought the main reason for me to join the PGA Tour is to play the FedExCup events, and they just fall in the wrong time of year for me.
And having watched them last year, I saw people playing in them who maybe you thought -- you looked at them and thought they don't really want to be there; and playing straight after the major championships in the summer, the Open and the PGA, and the World Golf Championship; it just looked like they were just going through the motions and ended up going through the motion because they had to be there to play in the FedExCup. And then The Ryder Cup straight after, it just seemed like a long run of tournaments at the wrong time of year.
Like I've said before, it's when my kids are in school and their summer holidays are right then at that time, and I like to be at home and go away with them.

Q. As world No. 1, have you come under any pressure, one, from PGA Tour, have they sort of approach you had and said would they come --

Q. And also sponsors who would like you to play there?
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, I've only been world No. 1 for two days. (Laughter) They have got plenty of time to put me under pressure. Most of that time I've been sat in press conferences like this.
So, no, I haven't had any pressure from anybody to play anywhere. But obviously I know they would obviously prefer me to play over there. But if you look at my schedule for the start of next year, it's predominately in the States. So it's not like I'm not going to go and play over there. I'm going to play a fairly full schedule up to, I suppose, the U.S. Open in America, and then base myself in Europe for the rest of that time.

Q. Can you just talk about the strength of European golf at the moment? Obviously there's a lot of guys up there in the rankings, and you and Martin are leading a bit of a Renaissance?
LEE WESTWOOD: You look at the performances just recently, it's incredibly strong. I suppose as a tour, winning The Ryder Cup is very special, but as individuals, we have got two Major Champions, the U.S. Open Champion and the PGA Champion, world No. 1, lots of ticks in the Top-10 in the World Rankings at the moment, lots of winners on the U.S. Tour this year from Great Britain and Europe.
So it's a strong time for Europe. I don't know the reason. It goes in cycles like that. We have a lot of good players at the moment.

Q. Do you think that The European Tour is now stronger than the U.S. Tour? If a Chinese golfer wants to attempt one of the two tours, what's your suggestion, because you have played both; what's your suggestion for a Chinese golfer? Which one should he choose?
LEE WESTWOOD: I think it very much depends on the individual. But I think you become a more worldly player playing The European Tour. I think both tours have pluses and minuses. I enjoy playing the PGA Tour, but I also enjoy coming back to Europe and going and playing in Europe like, say, Switzerland or coming and playing in Asia which is on The European Tour, as well.
It would depend on the individual. But I think if you want to develop your game or different aspects of your game, better to play on different aspects and to experience different cultures, and The European Tour is the one to do that on.

Q. A follow-up question, in 2016, golf will be part of the Olympic Games. What's your take on that? Do you think -- which one would be better, the U.S. Team, The European Team, or maybe golfers from South Korea? So what's your expectation for the Olympic Games six years later?
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, when it was first mentioned that golf may be included in the Olympics, I wasn't immediately a big fan of that, because I always grew up watching Carl Lewis, Sebastian Coe and people like that and associated people like that with the Olympics; and also associated that if you won a gold medal, then it should be the pinnacle of your sport, which I don't think it would be in golf, because the four majors take such a precedence. And you've also heard how they define a player's career, how many majors a player wins.
But having looked into it again and seen the positives to it, you know, it takes golf to such a wider audience. The funds that become available from various organisations would promote golf in countries that it would not ordinarily get to, especially in Asia and some of the other countries that wouldn't get to see golf or play golf. There's obviously a massive advantage to that.
As far who is going to do well in the 2016 Olympic Games, I mean, it's impossible to predict. But you mention Europe, America and then Korea, obviously Korean golf is very strong at the moment and there are a lot of good players. I suppose with golf being included in the Olympics in six years' time, the funding will be there from the various governments, like the Korean government and Chinese government for their players; so there's no reason why they shouldn't develop world-class performers and contend for the Gold Medal in Brazil.
I think it's going to be a good thing for golf now being included in the Olympics. We are not going to lose out on players that may come from, say, somewhere like Korea or Japan or Brazil or somewhere you wouldn't ordinarily associate with golf, you know, that will now maybe think golf could be the way to go, because they will have funding from the various associations and governments.

Q. You mentioned The Ryder Cup, can you just give us your memories from that thrilling final day; the match with you and Luke against Tiger and Stricker was one of the key ones of the entire weekend.
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, that was obviously a highlight of my Ryder Cup. It was a good performance by myself and Luke. I remember obviously sitting around a lot with the weather delays.
But the overriding memory is the dramatic finish and Graeme winning his match on the 17th there. You know, you almost forget the delays and the rain when you see the sun managing to come out on that Monday and then it being such an emotional and dramatic end to the tournament.
So I think it was a successful Ryder Cup in the end, and it was good to see it so close. I think the teams were very evenly-balanced. I don't think there was any real favourite before the week started, and it proved that way. It was just the odd putt here and there. We had one match to go and the teams were tied, weren't they. So it doesn't get much closer than that.

Q. Just where are you at exactly with your injury, you said it slowed you down; what have the doctors said?
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, the swelling is gradually coming down. I keep getting scans every three or four weeks. It's a slow process because of its location, really. It's deep in my calf muscle. So that's taken some time. And gravity is against me, obviously, because it's in my ankle.
If I sat with my leg up in the air, then it would come down, but obviously walking around, and I'm pushing it all the time, and I don't want to -- I don't want to sit around because I get bored. I wanted to come to this event, so I've hit a few balls last week which irritated it. So it's a balancing act. It's improving it, but it's still trying to stay and get competitive for weeks like this.
But if I put a percentage on it, I'd say it's probably between 80 and 90 per cent right now. But the good thing is, if I can play tournaments like this, it's not setting it back. I had a scan before The Ryder Cup and I had a scan two weeks after The Ryder Cup, and the swelling had come down even though I had played The Ryder Cup and the Dunhill.
So that's good news that I can play golf and the swelling is still coming down.
The difference now is to about four or five weeks ago; now I have the confidence to use my leg in my golf swing, rather than hold off a little bit as I did do then.

Q. Do you think that the grand slam titles are the benchmarks for a golf? And also, another question, what's your impression about China?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I think if you read any reports and listen to anybody's career defined, it's Jack Nicklaus, 18-time Major winner and Tiger Woods, 14-time Major winner and three-time Major winner Pádraig Harrington, Ernie Els. They don't list anything else. So you have to say that the players careers are defined by the four major championships.
As for China, yeah, I've always enjoyed coming here. I think is my fifth trip to China. It's an interesting place. You see a change every time you come and I hope to keep coming here because it's great fun.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Any more questions for Lee? I don't think so. I think we are all done. Lee, thank you for your time and good luck this week.

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