South Florida has long lured professional golfers from Europe, but Lee Westwood held out. While others moved into sprawling homes in gated developments, Westwood, 39, toiled away on his farm in Worksop, England, smacking balls in the cold and the rain and putting on a practice green he could never get to roll fast enough. He clashed with the PGA Tour over its onerous restrictions for nonmembers and, as if to underscore his point, skipped the 2011 Players.
That seems like a long, long time ago. Today, Westwood is a newly transplanted South Floridian. His kids are in school in West Palm Beach, where in late August he bought a house at swanky Old Palm. He's driving on the right side of the road. And he can't stop hollering, "You da man!" (Okay, strike that last part.) Westwood sat down to reflect on the big move, converting kilos to pounds, and what fans can expect from him next.
You've come a long way in two years. The last time we spoke at length it was about your belief that the PGA Tour was too restrictive to nonmembers.
I can't remember what that was about. [Laughs]
What changed your outlook?
I think I just enjoy playing here a lot more now. The [modern] game seems suited to the courses here. I get great support over here. Every week is the same, to be honest. The fans were great at the U.S. Open in San Francisco, and I thought the New York fans [at the Barclays at Bethpage Black] were fantastic -- a lot of cheers, "C'mon, Lee! C'mon, Westy!"
You've bought a home in Palm Beach Gardens. What's it like?
Has it got a pool for the kids?
The pool's for me.
Where will you play most of your golf?
I'm a member at Old Palm. That's where I'll do my practicing. Charl [Schwartzel] and Louis [Oosthuizen] play there. We had a couple of good games when we were down there the week before the Barclays. It's good to be around good golfers, to play with them regularly. It keeps you sharp.
And that's what this move to America is about, right?
I didn't really play much golf in Worksop when I was away from the tournaments. I spent most of my time practicing and hitting balls. I had my own practice facility, short game and long game, but I can't get the greens as quick as I'd like, and with the conditions, practicing in the rain is not the same as practicing in the sun. Putting on greens that are 8, 9 on the Stimpmeter, and then going to tournaments where the greens are 11 or 12, I was having to make an adjustment other guys don't have to.
Will you keep your place in Worksop?
No, I'm selling it. I don't spend enough time there. We had 12 good years there. I enjoyed going up there.
You're not exactly just dipping your toe in the water in America. You're all in.
Yeah, I've been thinking about it for a while.
You've said, "We see this as at least a five-year plan."
At least five years, yeah -- I've got to give it a good chance. I'm out to prolong my career.
Did Rory McIlroy's move to South Florida earlier last year inspire you to follow suit?
I don't think he has [officially moved]. You'd have to ask him. He rented a place at the start of the year.
How's your relationship? You've been cast as the big brother McIlroy never had, dispensing tough love. And you seemed irked when he left your mutual agent, Chubby Chandler, in 2011.
I think we have a decent relationship. We're not close, but we get on well when we [see each other]. We spent more time together when Rory was with Chubby. He gets on with Graeme [McDowell] well, so he spends a good bit of time with Graeme, I think.
Were you personally hurt when Rory left Chubby for another manager?
Is that what this interview is about? It was a business decision between him and Chubby. It isn't any of my business.
Let's talk about Europe's dramatic win at the Ryder Cup. What moment about the week will you never forget?
There were so many memorable moments, particularly on the last day, but I'll never forget the feeling of relief when Martin [Kaymer] sank the putt that meant we retained the cup.
At what point did you say to yourself, "We might just pull this off"?
We all knew we had to get off to a fast start [in singles], and Luke [Donald] led us off by example. The fact that there was always blue at the top of the board built up hope, and then when it became a more solid blue, it put more pressure on, put more confidence into those following to keep up the momentum. I think after Sergio [Garcia]'s win, the feeling turned to expectation as much as hope.
Did you have "a feeling," as Ben Crenshaw famously did in 1999, that it would all go your way Sunday?
The one thing about every European side I have played in, is that if it looks like we're going to go down, then we go down fighting. I wouldn't say it was so much "a feeling," just a collective desire to give absolutely everything to a cause that many outside the camp, but not inside, felt was a lost one.
U.S. captain Davis Love III said he had a conversation with you after it was all over that you "probably won't remember." Describe the revelry that night.
Let's just say it was among the most memorable of celebrations -- although I haven't been part of a bad one yet.