Ryder Cup Hero Lee Westwood Explains How Pros Are Playing For Longer
Former world number one golfer Lee Westwood has represented Europe in ten Ryder Cups and in still going strong.
One of the few golfers to win tournaments on five continents, the 48-year old tells RSNG that his new wife being his caddy is a huge advantage, as well as helping him stay in good shape…
RSNG You’ve spent over seven years of your career in the Top Ten of the World Golf Rankings, peaking around 2010 when you made it to World Number One. What’s your secret? LEE WESTWOOD, PRO GOLFER “Well, I’m obviously no youngster anymore. I do feel I’ve changed quite a bit over the years and I’d say that the consistency in my game from week to week – or sometimes even for four days in a tournament – isn’t what it used to be.”
“That’s not to say that I can’t be competitive in certain events and obviously, you want to peak in the majors – which is not to say that I don’t care about the Tour events, because I do. Golf isn’t golf without all of the events put together and I’ll take any win.”
RSNG You’re very much capable of getting those wins, aren’t you? LW “But to do that, your game has to be there and such is the level of player in the world of golf nowadays, you have to bring your A-game to every event. I know that when my game is at its best, it is world-class, but that just isn’t there as much and as often as I want it to be. Obviously I’m not alone in this – it’s what happens, so I’m very philosophical about it and very proud of what I’ve achieved.”
RSNG When the betting gets read out for Majors you are always mentioned along with a line of ‘wouldn’t it be a dream scenario for golf’. That must be nice? LW “I’d probably rather it wasn’t me mentioned as it would mean I’d won one! But yes, it’s still nice being respected and known in the game. I would rather be mentioned than not; and I still wholly feel like I have big performances left in me. Mostly though, I love the sport – that’s all that should really matter! – and I love the pursuit of winning.”
RSNG …and in 2023, those wins may be coming on the Seniors’ Tour? LW “Haha, yeah, that’s right. Well, it is what it is and that is certainly one option, of course. But some of those players on that tour are still playing brilliant golf, so that’s not going to be an automatic win just for turning up. Absolutely not.”
We spent our honeymoon at Torrey Pines in preparation for the US Open – what more could you ask for?
RSNG Tell us about you and Ping, and over three decades using their equipment? LW “Well, I’m from Worksop and Ping’s factory in Gainsborough is only about 40 minutes away in the car, so about 20 miles. At the time, there was a golf pro there called John King and he had a lot of Ping in the club shop.”
“John had been talking to the local rep and told them that there was a good junior at the club, which led to me going to the Ping fitting center and that’s where it all began.”
RSNG Which clubs did you use first? LW “I started with the steel Ping I2s, which I kept for quite a while. Then, I got Beryllium copper clubs and they were highly sought after due to their ability to put spin on the ball. However, it took me a little time to get used to them and the amount of spin I had to attach to the shot – then, they changed the rules with square groove wedges not deemed to be legal… although Ping’s manufacturer did win a legal case on one their clubs. But that’s another matter.”
RSNG Are you their go-to guy for when they look to constantly improve their clubs? Do they seek advice from professionals like yourself? LW “I don’t have any input in the technical or design side, whatsoever. They are obviously a successful provider of golf clubs and it just so happens that I like everything which I’ve used on Tour. So, the confidence and faith that I have in them is something that I’ve always had.”
“Obviously, not every club is going to work or suit my actual game and that’s the same with anything. They will let me know that they’ve got a new club, I will get one, test it out and if I like it, I use it, if I don’t like it, then I let them know why and then they speak to other players who use Ping. It’s really as simple as that.”
RSNG You got married in a ‘surprise’ Las Vegas wedding in the summer, what was that like? LW ‘Well, we planned it for four weeks, so yeah – not a surprise to either of us! Luckily, we got married somewhere where they know what they are doing – also, not a surprise, haha! But it was such an amazingly easy and simple thing to do, because the license was totally pain-free, so no headaches there.”
“It took no more than 15 minutes to sort out and thankfully, neither of us had last-minute nerves, Helen didn’t change her mind about marrying me and we both said: “I do,” and we spent our honeymoon at Torrey Pines in preparation for the US Open. What more could you ask for, haha?”
One thing all of these players have in common is fitness and keeping themselves in good shape
RSNG Just going back to what you were saying about winning at an older age, what did Phil Mickleson’s win at the 2021 PGA Championship make you think? LW “For me personally, frustrated as I’ve yet to win a major, but really happy for him because he has been written off by those who think they know the game inside out, sometimes – I mean, look at all of the talk about Tiger and whether he had won his last major before he rolled back the years to win at Augusta the other year.”
“Players who have class and have that immense amount of passion about the game, that will to win and everything else that is required, are never really out of contention – especially if their game is all in order at the right time.”
“It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you’re not hitting the ball well enough to win, you won’t – no matter how much you want to win. Some days or weeks, it’s just not there and what can you do about that? A lot of the time, just go back to the range and work out where you’re going wrong.”
“Is it the way you’re hitting the ball? Is it the swing? Is there a mental block? Is there an injury that you either know about or you are trying to play through? Are there things going on away from golf – because these are the things that matter and also the things that people don’t see or understand. Everything has to be right.”
RSNG It does show that the old dog has life in it yet, though? LW “Yeah, it wasn’t just Phil’s win. You’ve had a lot of the older players getting good results or playing really well. Stewart Cink won twice in 2021 and on one of the weeks that he won, Padraig Harrington played great and he’s getting to senior age.”
“But one thing all of these players have in common is fitness and keeping themselves in good shape. If you can do that, you will get close to the top of the leaderboard, even if you don’t win that week. But if you knock on the door enough times, it will eventually open.”
“I would say that we’re all part of that generation that did begin to try and set the trend of golfers looking after ourselves, making sure our bodies could deal properly with the toils and pressures we put on them. The very fact that we are even playing in our late 40s and early 50s is testament to that, and we’re very much seeing the benefits of that.”
RSNG Another advantage of playing well is when you have a good caddy and you’ve got your wife on the bag, now. How much does that help you when you’ve got a caddy that knows you so well? LW “Oh, it helps immensely. For me personally, it’s a huge mental lift because it allows me to pick my own shot and I don’t take too long over that. Unless I am in a huge problem with the lie or obstructions – such as trees or hazards in front of me.”
“Helen has sat in on psychology sessions with me, so that means that she knows exactly what is going on in my head and she does really know me better than almost everyone else. So, for that reason alone, she is a huge advantage to be with me for every shot that I play on the course.”
“Sometimes, the golf course can be a lonely place. She gives me so much peace of mind and helps me concentrate.”
WHAT NEXT? Read the RSNG interview with PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa.
Still here? Watch Westwood shooting a 62 at the 2020 Scottish Open...