Westwood Preps for Masters this Week in Houston


Lee Westwood is in Texas to make his sixth career start in the Houston Open. The $6 million PGA Tour stop begins Thursday at the Redstone Tournament Course in Humble, Texas. Phil Mickelson is the defending champion.

Like many players, the 38-year-old Englishman comes to the event because the course duplicates the fast surfaces faced at the following week's tournament, the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

Westwood certainly can't find equivalent playing conditions at this time of year in England. "It's nice to have the benefit around the greens playing the similar kind of shot and they got them really quick here as they do next week," he said during a press conference Tuesday.

"It's nice to get on fast greens because you can't practice this time of year, the greens are in poor condition and you can't get them faster. It will be hard for me to go from being at home to straight into competitive play at Augusta."

Despite having 21 victories on the European tour and two PGA wins in America, Westwood has yet to win a major title. He's often come close, including a second-place finish in the 2010 Masters, with a total of 12 top-10s in the majors. But he hasn't quite gotten over the hump.

"I think it proves I'm capable of winning major championships," he told reporters at Restrone. "Lot of top-threes and just have to keep doing that and put myself in position. When I get the chance, take it the next time. It makes me look forward to major championships a lot more than I used to. I think my game - I feel like my game is better equipped to tackle major championship golf courses."

Here's what else Westwood, No. 3 in the latest World Golf Ranking behind Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy, had to say during Tuesday's Q&A.

MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Lee Westwood here into the interview room at the Shell Houston Open, making his 6th start in this event, never missed a cut. Lee, just talk about being back here in Houston.

LEE WESTWOOD: It's good - this is a tournament I like to play. That's why I'm back. It's a great golf course. I always thought if you play well, you got a chance to shoot low. If you don't, it penalizes you. Lot of water out there. It's testing shots. Greens are immaculate and around the greens is nice and tight and so natural run-off areas, better practice for next week. Coming from England and being based there, it's nice to come over for a couple of weeks and play a couple of tournaments on courses that are very similar.

MODERATOR: Talk a little bit about the state of your game here.

LEE WESTWOOD: It's pretty good. Played six tournaments this year and my worse finish was at Doral, which is tied 29th, I think. Couple of fourth places and second in Dubai. Top-15s and -20s in two events. It's been consistent. You know, I'm looking forward to playing the next two events.

MODERATOR: We'll go into questions.

Q. As far as preparation, your routine for the Masters, how has this tournament helped you in the past just getting ready for the week? How has it changed since it moved to Redstone?

LEE WESTWOOD: I like to be competitive the week before the Masters. It's a tough test at Augusta. I've always found it a tough test. If you don't go into it competitively sharp, you know, not going to hit all the greens, going to have to get up and down a little bit as you do at most tournaments, but it just seems like it's more important at the Masters, you know, keep the momentum going.

It's nice to have the benefit around the greens playing the similar kind of shot and they got them really quick here as they do next week. It's nice to get on fast greens because you can't practice this time of year, the greens are in poor condition and you can't get them faster. It will be hard for me to go from being at home to straight into competitive play at Augusta.

Q. Do you find off the tee that the targets are similar at all?

LEE WESTWOOD: No, not really, I haven't found that. I'm not one of these people for playing the shot that I have to play next week. I like to play each tournament and give it the respect it deserves and play each course on its merits, play a shot when it's necessary.

Q. Have you snuck over and seen Augusta?

LEE WESTWOOD: Not this year, no. I didn't think it was, you know, that necessary. I've done it the last couple years and played it a couple weeks before. You know, it's a nice play to go and soak up the atmosphere with nobody there and get some work done, but the course isn't really reflective of how it's going to be on Thursday morning next week. It isn't on Monday when - next week. It changes so much in three days you can't expect it to be right - if I would have gone last weekend and had a practice round. I just decided not to this year and thought the extra couple of days at home would do me more.

Q. You talked about the mindset of just playing each shot for what it's worth right now and - how much do you think that mentality has had to do with the sort of consistency you've had for a very long time? You've been at steady for -

LEE WESTWOOD: I've always done that, I've always tried to play the right shot at the right time. That's just part of good course management. The consistency comes from me around the greens. You know, my short game is a lot sharper. You look at the short game stats, the scrambling stats and bunker stats and things like that, you know, if you're high up in those then you can maximize your scoring chances out there. If you miss greens, you get up and down, you're going to bring your scores down. That's led to more consistency for me.

Q. Have you changed the amount of time you spend on that or are you just practicing better when you do it?

LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, I spend a lot more time working on the shots than I used to, spend a lot more time in the gym and lot more time in the chipping green. If I was asked to, you know, what percentage, I'd say I spend 60 percent of the time on the putting green or around the chipping green now, 40 percent on the range.

Q. I had a question going back to your answer a couple of questions ago about giving the tournament the respect it deserves. Once you're out there, is the Masters blown out of your mind and you're playing this course, this hole, this shot?

LEE WESTWOOD: Yes. I'm here to try to win this tournament, the Shell Houston Open. It's all such a mental game. You have to be so mentally focused to do well that - certainly for myself, I'm not smart enough to concentrate on two things at once so I have to concentrate on the thing at hand, which is trying to win this week.

Q. Your practice areas at home, do you have them shaped to practice -

LEE WESTWOOD: As close as possible, yeah, as close as you can get it. You know, the season in Britain from October around to March is fairly limited. I can't get my green anywhere near the 13, 14 you need.

Q. What do you get it to?

LEE WESTWOOD: 9 1/2, 10. I've got - I use two weeks more to just get away from golf and get in the gym. I didn't hit that many balls. I don't think I hit any balls the first week and then just hit a few balls, practice around the clipping green the second week and the bunker play.

Q. Can you talk about the 18th hole and where you would rank that in terms of toughest finishes on the Tour?

LEE WESTWOOD: Very high up there depending on the wind. If it plays downwind you can get there with a 3-wood because it narrows up in the neck there. Then you're only hit 8, 9-iron. Into the wind, it's one you look forward to for the first four and a half hours of your round (laughter).

Q. With the last 15 majors you finished in the top-three six times which is putting yourself in position an awful lot. How much has all that sort of affected, just being in the hunt so many times, affected your mentality, your approach or your thought process what it takes to win majors and what they mean to you over time?

LEE WESTWOOD: I think it proves I'm capable of winning major championships. Lot of top-threes and just have to keep doing that and put myself in position. When I get the chance, take it the next time. It makes me look forward to major championships a lot more than I used to. I think my game - I feel like my game is better equipped to tackle major championship golf courses.

Q. Is there more of the sense that you don't have to do anything out of the ordinary to be in the position because you've done that so many times?

LEE WESTWOOD: No, I don't think so. You really should go into it treating it like just another tournament. We have plenty of them. You know, major championships are no different. Some of the tests are a little bit more severe, you know. You know, next week's greens will be faster than most greens we putt on all years. I feel like I've got a good enough game to cope with those things.

Q. You guys are saying the fairways are pretty soft right now.

LEE WESTWOOD: I've not been out. I've heard that.

Q. How do you think that will fit into your game? Do you think that will give you a little advantage or help you getting ready for next week a little better?

LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah. I think I'm, by no means, short. I'm not probably the longest or not one of the longest but I've got enough length to tackle most golf courses. They've grown the grass into as well. So, that's another thing they do for next week. It's another thing to get used to, I suppose and, you know, I think this is a great golf course. I think you've got to have all aspects of your game in place. But certainly it helps to be 300 yards down the middle on most holes.

Q. Is there anyway to describe what kind of vibe there is going on right now when you've got so many elite players, they really seem to be close to the top of their games, Tiger looks like he's back, you've won four times in a year, you've got Rory doing what he's doing, Phil has won this year, what does that create with you guys when you see -

LEE WESTWOOD: With me not a lot. I don't watch it (laughter). I had two weeks off last week. I didn't watch any golf at all. I'm not a big watcher of it. You know, it's great for publicity and for the fans watching it to have all the best players playing well at once. You know, it obviously creates a buildup to next week's tournament. I suppose the PGA Tour - it's a marketing man's dream to get everybody playing well going into the first major. I think the TV looks at it that way, too. It's good for golf.

Q. Can I take you back to last year's Masters and the way that Charl won birdieing last four holes, just you're looking back on that, just the accomplishment of it, can you talk about that, talk about, you know, the fact that it was a Major, and have you ever birdied a stretch of holes like that to win a tournament?

LEE WESTWOOD: I can't remember that I've done it. I've played with Charl on the Saturday - he had a couple of really good breaks of luck on the Saturday. I think he hooked it into the trees on 13 and it popped out and he made five, I think in the end. But, you know, that could have been a disaster. I think, remember thinking about it afterwards, he had a couple of breaks and then he obviously had a slice of fortune I suppose you could say starting off chipping in on 1 and the shot on 3.

You need those kind of breaks to win big tournaments occasionally and when he needed to, you know, show what you got and take advantage of those breaks, then he did it on the final four holes. You know, it was an amazing way to finish, really, to win your first major championship, to birdie the last four with what seemed like everybody was making a few, Adam was making a few and Jason Day was making a few birdies. I can't remember who else was up there. You know, it was an impressive way to finish, wasn't it?

Q. It was. I mean it seems mind-boggling because nobody ever does that, especially at Augusta.

LEE WESTWOOD: Well, I think Augusta has its fair share of good finishes, maybe not birdieing the last hour holes, but I certainly remember Ernie and Phil going at it a few years ago and Phil shot 67 the last round when I finished second and he beat me. You know, it has its fair share of exact things happening there. I think that's the beauty of Augusta, it's similar to - if you play well you have a good chance to make a few birdies. If you get out of position, you can make bogeys fast. The 2 and 3-shot swings are possible around there. That's the beauty of it.

MODERATOR: Anything else? Lee, we appreciate your time. Play well this week.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.


CBS Sports Official Partner