Lee Westwood (Pre-Championship)
BETH MAJOR: We'd like to welcome Lee Westwood into the interview room here at the Olympic Club at the 2012 U.S. Open here in San Francisco.
We're very happy to have with us this afternoon Lee Westwood who is coming off a five stroke victory in Sweden at the Nordea Championship. In 1998 Lee played in his second U.S. Open at the time and finished tied for 7th. This is his 13th U.S. Open.
Can you talk a little bit about how nice it is coming in playing well this week and what you expect here at Olympic Club here this week.
LEE WESTWOOD: It is nice to come off a win, with that confidence. I expect this week to be a tough test. I've seen the golf course over the last couple of days. And it's difficult, like all U.S. Open tests normally are. This is one of tougher ones. Sets up really well. And tests every aspect of your game.
BETH MAJOR: Realizing that 14 years have passed since the 1998 championship, what do you carry over from your success 14 years ago?
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, all the greens have changed completely. It's a different type of grass. I don't really remember too much of the greens other than the 18th, and that seems a little bit flatter this year. But certainly still quick from back to front.
Tee‑to‑green it's fairly similar to the 8th, I think, seems to play fairly similar. The 8th is much longer now. It was an 8 or 9‑iron par‑3 when we came here last time and now it's a 5 or 4‑iron, even. So that's changed slightly.
Sixteen is obviously a bit longer. But most golf courses are longer, having been lengthened over the last 14 years. It feels like a similar sort of setup.
Q. Couple of things, first of all midnight back home.
LEE WESTWOOD: Shutting down completely, I'm afraid.
Q. Are you sleeping okay?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I've had a couple of good nights sleep. But started shutting down about an hour ago. Must have been the anticipation of coming in here. (Laughter).
Q. People are saying this is a Lee Westwood golf course, ball‑striker's course.
LEE WESTWOOD: I'm delighted that they think that. I can't figure out what's my kind of golf course and what isn't anymore. I think my game seems to be fairly well suited to most golf courses. But looking at this one, it really does test you tee‑to‑green. It's a good driver's golf course, if you can drive it in play a lot then it gives you a chance to score. Not that you hit that many drivers around here, but I think any U.S. Open test is more of a tee‑to‑green examination than week in week out tournaments.
Q. How many?
LEE WESTWOOD: I don't know, it may change from day‑to‑day. There's holes like 6 that people might consider a 3‑iron or even a 5‑wood and leave a long shot in. But if you can hit driver down the right‑hand side you've got a bigger advantage, you're going there with 9. It depends on what you're feeling at the time and what your game plan is and how you want to play it.
BETH MAJOR: You have played quite well in the U.S. Open over the years. Do you prefer a tougher test like the U.S. Open presents?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I like a tough test. I've won tournaments where 24‑under has been required and I've won tournaments which have been relative high scoring. I would prefer the high scoring where par means something. I think it's nice for the galleries coming to see us make pars and look pretty pleased, like it means something. Yeah, I don't mind this kind of mental challenge.
Q. How would you rank this compared to other U.S. Open courses in difficulty. And then the second part of the question is, I know we're not there yet, but theoretically what would make a course too difficult? Where does that lie?
LEE WESTWOOD: I don't know. I can't figure that out. I think the difficulty of the golf course will depend on the conditions, as well. I think this course is probably going to get quite a lot trickier the firmer it gets this week, because there's no rain in the forecast. The fairways will be harder to hit, you'll have to shape it into holes like 3 and 4 more and 10 and 17, where the camber runs the opposite way to the hole.
So it ranks pretty highly. I can only think of really Oakmont that sort of jumps out that's been a more difficult in this one in recent years. That was, once again, very firm. You tend to find these golf courses harder to play when they're firm. Pebble Beach was harder because it firmed up.
Q. Can you understand why people would say the U.S. Open is your major, why it's the one that suits you best?
LEE WESTWOOD: Can I understand? Yeah, for all the reasons I've just spoken about. It's a tough test tee‑to‑green and mentally draining, I guess. But I've played well in all of them. So I think that's what major championships are. They mean so much. Because they test you to such an extent in every aspect of your game.
Q. Are you at the stage now where you're not willing to settle for what you may have done before? You've got so close so many times.
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, it's uncontrollable, though. I can only come into tournaments and play as well as possible that week. After that, it's out of my hands.
Q. Do you feel you're playing well going into this?
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, I shot 19‑under last week. So I'm playing okay. Was that a trick question?
You know, my game feels pretty good. I'm fairly confident.
Q. Could you ‑‑ would you mind running through the logistics of how you got from Sweden from here by Tuesday and how much sleep you may or may not have gotten in that time?
LEE WESTWOOD: It's not been too bad a journey, really. I got home 9:30 on Saturday evening, because we finished a day early. And then got up at 6:30 Sunday morning and drove down to Heathrow and got the 11:45 out of Heathrow into San Francisco and got in about 2:00.
Drove to the hotel, took about half an hour, unpacked, took a shower. Yeah, cleaned my teeth and went and had a bit of dinner.
Q. I'm glad you can remember that much, being jet lagged, well done.
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I'm a bit jet lagged. My body is starting to shut off a little bit now. It's quarter past midnight at home. But it's just one of those things. I play all around the world and contend with time changes and quite severe ones. We go and play in Shanghai and Singapore and places like that. I play Indonesia, I was there. And it doesn't take long, two or three days to get over it. By Thursday, you know, it will be fine. Certainly finishing on Saturday last week was a big advantage.
Q. Olympic Club in terms of most of your experience in Europe, is there anything like it that you play regularly. Any course like it in Europe and how did you fare on that course?
LEE WESTWOOD: No, not really. This sort of sets itself apart because of the severity of the fairways, I think. And the fact that you have to shape it into them. I can't think of any other course that really compares to it.
Most places you try and get the fairways pretty flat, when they're doing the design. But here they seem to prefer the ball to land on one side of the fairway and run to the other.
Q. After so long with Billy on the bag and Sponge for the second time, it's obviously gelled fairly quickly for you.
LEE WESTWOOD: He's a good caddie and he's very easy to get along with. He's a pretty calm character, fairly similar to myself. And I changed clubs last week. I changed to the new Ping I‑20s, I changed wedges, changed putters, and I have a caddie that's only been on the bag two weeks. There's been quite a lot of changes. That freshens it up a bit. And the results were there for everybody to see, I suppose.
But he certainly has been a help. And I've enjoyed him working for me the past couple of weeks. Easy to get on with.
Q. As I'm sure you know from back home the Olympics is a massive deal. Golf is not part of the Olympics this time around, coming in the next Olympics. Would getting a Major between now and then be any sort of compensation for not being part of that sporting event?
LEE WESTWOOD: Between now and the Olympics?
Q. Yeah, you can't get a gold medal this summer.
LEE WESTWOOD: No, not really.
Q. But how would a Major title feel?
LEE WESTWOOD: No, I have enough to think about than thinking about why golf is not in the Olympics this time around. Majors are the only thing missing that I haven't won. That's why I concentrate on winning. This is the next possible opportunity so that's why I'm playing here and I put in the preparation.
Q. Seemed a pretty bold move to change as much as you did in the bag last week. Was that done with one eye on this week or just started to wade out a bit?
LEE WESTWOOD: No, not really. I've been using Ping for 20 odd years now and have a good relationship with the company. And they know what I want. And I've been using these irons for ‑‑ at home for two or three months trying to break them in and get used to them.
But I was fairly surprised I played so well with them last week. It was a bit explosive out of the blocks to hit so many good iron shots.
Q. Same irons this week?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, same iron this week, same putter. Certainly deserve a stay of execution.
Q. Are there any other changes for this week?
LEE WESTWOOD: No. I changed grips on my driver, 3‑wood and 5‑wood, they needed a regripping. Everything else is the same.
Q. You said the only thing missing is a Major. Do you feel it's a matter of time until you get that Major?
LEE WESTWOOD: I don't know. Maybe I'll never win one. Maybe I will. I could. I've got no answer to that. Keep working hard and trying to get myself into the position. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't.
Q. Regarding the first six holes, very tough stretch. What sort of scores do you think you need to get on those holes to not lose ground?
LEE WESTWOOD: I don't know. You've hit the nail on the head there. Very tough stretch. I guess if you get through them in level par you'd be delighted. There are some severe tests in there.
1's obviously very tough. 2 is a tight fairway. And then a 7‑iron into a quite undulating green, and there's not a birdie chance in the first six holes.
3 is 250, with a wind off the left. 4 is a tough hole, 5 is a tough hole. 6 is another tough hole. You just try and get off to a steady start and not make too many mistakes. Come out of it unscathed and try to pick up a few birdies on the way in, because it gets so much easier after that (laughter).
Q. How different will your interaction be with your high profile group members given that it's a Major, first two rounds?
LEE WESTWOOD: I don't anticipate any difference to when we would play normally. I played with Rory today and I can't imagine it any different when we play on Thursday. I get along with Luke. I partnered with him in the Ryder Cup. It's a good group to be in. We'll all enjoy it, I would imagine.
Q. Do you like that sort of scrutiny?
LEE WESTWOOD: Not really scrutiny. You've got to play with somebody. So you might as well play with a couple of mates. It's nice to play with people you know and people you've got something in common with and you get on with.
Q. So you'll help each other.
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, I don't think we'll help each other, but we'll get on and try and have a bit of fun out there. Playing golf for a living, it's not a bad job. We all get on. So we'll be serious. Because it's the first round of the U.S. Open. But try and enjoy it as well.
BETH MAJOR: Well, we look forward to watching. Lee, thank you for joining us today. We wish you well.