GOLF Magazine Interview: Lee Westwood

GOLF Magazine Interview: Lee Westwood

"It wouldn't be the end of the world if I never won a major."
Steve Read

Never mind being World No.1, you seem to be the new King of Twitter, too.
It’s a British cultural thing. We have always been able to laugh at ourselves more than Americans have. I never take myself too seriously. Sometimes Americans don’t
quite get my sense of humor. My good ol’ British sarcasm seems to go over their heads. They’ll have to learn to spot it coming [smiles].

Tiger’s on Twitter but not he’s not joining in much is he?
He’s been pretty guarded all his life so I don’t see how he’s now naturally going to suddenly open up on Twitter. Golf is difficult to get your personality over because you are such a bottle of concentration. People always say golfers don’t smile. But there is so much psychology in golf so we have to be a bit robotic. It’s important we let fans know what we are like. Let them know the human being behind the golfer.

Being No.1, is it a dream come true?
I never holed a putt as a kid to be World No.1. It was always to win the Open or the Masters. When I started I didn’t really have any ideas about where I wanted to go. I just wanted to play golf every day. I knew I didn’t want to have a proper job [smiles].

How has being No. 1 changed you?
People say I am walking with more of a swagger, but I don’t think so. I think it’s an indication of how other people’s opinion of you changes and how they look at
you. I’m not walking with my chest puffed out.

Do you enjoy the celebrity?
Yes. It’s easier getting table at restaurants now [smiles]. But I’ve never been fame-driven. You’ll never see me doing Strictly Come Dancing [the British take on Dancing with the Stars] or celebrity magazines.

How much extra pressure to you feel?
There is more responsibility. The eyes of the world are on you more. I can see already that whenever I say anything, how much it gets picked up on. I’m representing
golf now rather than just myself. Experiencing how much extra work is involved; I can see why Tiger pulled down the shutters.

But you are quite happy to voice your opinions, right?
If you have things to say, you should say them. Sportsmen sometimes open their mouths and haven’t got foundation for what they say. Other times, it’s like they are
airbrushing and sugar-coating and just saying what everybody wants to hear and what’s politically correct rather than the truth.

Do you detect American media not giving you credit for being No. 1 and a rift between the European Tour and PGA Tour?
It’s unfortunate because I do see it as, “Us versus Them.” And we are almost as guilty as they are of being too guarded about our own tour. We are both increasing the
amount of events you have to play, both fighting for the same dates by putting tournaments on during the same weeks.

What would you like to see?
We are all in a tough financial situation. All the tours and federations should be pulling together for the good of golf. Getting all the best players together on the same week. Not going up against each other. If nobody does anything about it, golf will struggle, sponsors will drop out. Think of the big picture.

Should golf become more like tennis?
Well, yeah. Greg Norman made a valid point 15 years ago when he tried to get a World Tour going. Whether that’s having 25 massive tournaments a year with smaller ones on the same week in other parts of the world. There has to be a change or people will get bored with it and golf will get stale. Golf is so slow now. Maybe it should be like the NFL where they have the clock just to keep everything going. Just to jazz it up a bit to attract a different crowd.

Anything to declare from the Ryder Cup celebrations?
I was emcee at the party. Too many vodka and tonics. Too much champagne. Massive headache next morning. I was playing with Phil [Mickelson] in Shanghai in November and I told him about how I did an interview during which they asked me what I was doing after the Ryder Cup and I told them I ended up in the U.S. team room playing table tennis and I lost to Mickelson. And they said, “Was he a pretty decent player?” And I said, “No, not Phil — Amy!” And she gave me a right thumping [laughs].

Any surprise party animals?
Martin Kaymer came right out of his shell. He doesn’t normally drink but he had quite a few and hit the karaoke machine. Even Padraig [Harrington] cracked open the Jack Daniels. The nice thing now is that both teams get together. I sat in the locker room having a drink with Arnold Palmer a few years ago with Ernie [Els] after Ernie had just won the Bay Hill Invitational and Arnold said that this is the way it should be. Guys beat each other’s brains out on the golf course and then sit down and have a drink, talk about it, and be mates.

The Ryder Cup is in the bag but the search for that elusive major continues.
It wouldn’t be the end of the world if I never won a major, but careers of top players are defined by how many they win. Certainly the careers of World No.1s are highlighted even more.

Colin Montgomerie says you are the favorite to win the Masters. But you have had a love/hate relationship with the Masters lately, right?
I didn’t fall out of love with the Masters, it was with Augusta. But what they have done to the course in the past two years has vindicated what I said. One of the great things about the Masters when I was growing up was those back-nine charges and hearing the roars on 13 and 15 when people made eagles. I just thought the course was getting so severe, that we were losing that. The Masters to me isn’t about level par winning; it’s about the beautiful course and those late charges and seeing those long bending putts going in. You know, being able to shoot 5-, 6-under and get into contention. I grew up watching Jack Nicklaus shoot 30 in 1986.

A final world on Monty, please.
I just found out Monty changed all our beds the week before the Ryder Cup. How’s that for attention to detail? But he needn’t have bothered on my behalf; I can
sleep on a table. They call me half man, half mattress [laughs].