|Johnson Wagner - Lee Westwood - March 27, 2012
An Interview with Lee Westwood
JOHN BUSH: 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.
JOHN BUSH: 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 4th places and 2nd 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.
JOHN BUSH: 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 years, 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-3 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-3s 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 5, 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 4 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 2nd 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.
JOHN BUSH: Anything else? Lee, we appreciate your time. Play well this week.
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An Interview with Johnson Wagner
JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Johnson Wagner into the interview room here at the Shell Houston Open.
Johnson, took over the top spot again in the FedExCup Points list last week. Just a tremendous year. You won at the Sony Open and now you're back here at the Shell Houston Open where you won in 2008.
First of all, talk a little bit about the season you've had.
JOHNSON WAGNER: The season has been very good to start out, obviously, with a win and a 2nd and 4th and 9th. I think I've quadrupled my previous best Top-10 total for the year.
I'm work really hard. It's nice to see stuff payoff so quickly in the year and I've set myself up for some big goals for the rest of the year and hopefully the rest of my career and, you know, it's great to be in Houston.
I've always said this is kind of a Major for me. I love being in Texas and from Texas originally and just Houston is like home and the Houston Golf Association, all the folks here treated me like family and treated my family real well and just real happy to be in Houston.
JOHN BUSH: Talk a little bit about Redstone and this golf course, how it sets up for you.
JOHNSON WAGNER: It sets up great for me off the tee. I like to hit a little right to left draw off the tee. This golf course, with the exception of a couple holes, really favors a right to left flight so, you know, the greens are perfect which is also favorable for me and I just love being here, everything about it.
JOHN BUSH: All right. Questions?
Q. Johnson, was there something in particular about your game over the last couple of seasons, obviously coming off of the Nationwide and now just ascend so quickly? What's happened. Something kind of clicked with you in your game?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Little bit. I had a good rookie year in '07, won here in '08, then kind of fell off the planet. Thought golf was easy. Didn't work at it as hard as I could.
Had a couple kids which slowed me down mentally practicing and stuff. Obviously I loved having the kids. I hired a trainer about this time last year and I've just had so much more energy since working with him and worked out hard this winter and just really practicing on the right stuff and listening to my coach and caddy and really taking advice from the people that I trust that are around me.
Q. Did the victory kind of trigger the complacency in '08?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I worked really hard leading up to it. I'm not going say it was easy. It wasn't easy at all. But I think I then had really high expectations for myself and when I wasn't winning every week or even having chances, I think I just -- I don't know. I don't know. I went into a little dark place in my golf career.
Q. When you look at your game statistically, doesn't look like it's dramatically different other than looking at scrambling stats.
How much of that sort of has been a point of emphasis and how much of that is correlated to how much better you're scoring and all that?
JOHNSON WAGNER: My short game has always been kind of a weak link. I kind of worked with this guy from Dallas, Texas, Tony Martinez last year and a little bit this year. He's coming into Houston tonight.
He's helped me a lot with my short game. I'm a very good putter. I don't have to chip it that great. I have to get it up there relatively close and I can get it up and down.
The difference between chipping it to five feet or ten feet is exponentially better. I don't think my short game is where it needs to be but I think I'm overall getting it closer to the hole which is allowing me to get up and down more.
Q. Is the fact that you always felt you were a good putter part of the reason maybe you didn't -- you always felt like you putt well, you feel like you already had a good short game, maybe you didn't break it down that way?
JOHNSON WAGNER: You know, I think I just neglected that part of my game. It's fun to hit balls and it's fun to have a little putting game or drill to do but I've never enjoyed practicing chipping.
So I'm learning to enjoy it and I'm really enjoying it on Sundays when I chip it to a foot and don't have to think about a par putt.
Q. There's a lot of golfers, intangibles that go into the mental part of your game. You talked about coming here and playing and playing in Texas. You played well in San Antonio last year.
Is there a comfort level for you from being from this state playing in these events?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Definitely. My caddy lives here in Houston now as well so anytime we're in Texas we just kind of -- we feel comfortable, both of us. So it's -- I like going everywhere where. We're very fortunate on the PGA TOUR. We play the best golf courses every week. They get them in perfect condition for that one week for us to come in and play.
It's hard to find a lot of faults with any golf course. But it seems like when I come to Texas I, you know, have extra motivation or feel extra comfortable.
Q. You touched on the kind expectations you have for this year now. Has what you've been doing really ramped up the expectation or did you go into the year with a different mindset in terms of what your expectations were?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Well, I had pretty big goals starting the year and then I had some even bigger goals starting the year and since I've started so well -- you know, I've already won which is a goal.
You know, I have over a thousand FedExCup Points. I've reached some early on goals that have now allowed me to reach bigger goals like qualifying for the Tour Championship, Ryder Cup, playing in all four Majors for the first time in my career.
So it's just nice to be able to talk about those and actually, you know, actually have them be attainable.
Q. I wonder how interesting is it to have all this, you're not that far from the Top 50 in the world and a lot of things that can -- you know, lot of possibilities.
JOHNSON WAGNER: It's nice and, you know, I was really close to getting into the Match Play after my 2nd place at the Hope and I took the next week off and then went into Phoenix and needed a good week in Phoenix to qualify for the Match Play.
Had a good couple rounds. Got a little ahead of myself and ended up having a bad weekend, not really coming close, finishing 72nd or something in the World Rankings.
It was a good lesson the more you think about that kind of stuff, the harder it is to actually achieve it. You -- it's better to go out, focus on playing good golf and those sort of things will take care of themselves.
Now sitting in here or if I'm at home talking to my parents or wife or somebody, it's nice the talk about Ryder Cups and all that stuff but I'm kind of learning as I go along that if I'm thinking about the Ryder Cup when I'm playing in a tournament I'm probably not going to get the opportunity to play on that team.
Q. You talk about winning years back and the kind of a dark period in your golf game and everything. Now you're back to where you'd like to be.
What's the difference in Johnson Wagner now than at that time?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I think my coach has told me all year, he said don't let the little stuff get you down. It's a cliche but, you know, I used to let one bogey, one silly bogey with a wedge in my hand turn into three out of the next five holes and now I'm just kind of letting the bad stuff that I do, the kind of stupid mistakes, for lack of a better word, I'm letting them roll off me a little easier and not letting them affect me for the in next two, three holes.
I'm having fun, really. Not getting stressed, not getting upset. It's not like I throw clubs or anything but I can get pretty upset with myself if I make a bogey from the fairway. So I'm just trying to be more patient and let that sort of stuff roll off.
Q. You still going tournament to tournament in the RV?
JOHNSON WAGNER: No. We have two kids now. We tried it for two weeks last year. It just didn't work (laughter). I'm looking to sell it (laughter). I think I might have an offer on the table but -- no. I wish. I loved RV'g but it's too much with two young kids, it's too much driving.
Q. Is there a good mustache story or anything?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I mean it's insane. Every week -- well, for the last few weeks I've had a couple good parings and people know who I am. I don't think they know my name but they know me as the "Mustache Guy" (laughter).
I've heard, "Best mustache on Tour". But I guess the only person to compare it to is Rickie Fowler. His mustache is terrible. He looks like Captain Jack Sparrow.
It's incredible. It's kind of given me my own little brand, I guess. It was not the -- it was not my intention starting the year. Thought if I played well it would give me a little more recognition. It's kind of been unbelievable. It's definitely not gone anywhere.
Q. Thought about trademarking it?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Maybe one across my chest?
Q. Nobody in golf doing the Brian Wilson thing.
JOHNSON WAGNER: I got the dark facial hair, which could help.
Q. Johnson, kind of a Master-related question. What Schwartzel did last year to birdie the last four holes coming down the stretch to win his first Major, looking back a year later, what was your reaction to it and how hard is it to do that in a regular tournament?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I mean we've seen this year how many guys have had the lead going into Sunday and not many people have held on to a 54 hole lead this year so it's never easy to win a PGA TOUR event.
But to birdie the -- I remember watching that event. It was probably the best Major Championship for viewing that I've ever seen. I've watched a lot of golf.
Tiger made a run early. There was, I think, at one point, ten guys within one or two shots of the lead and it was anybody. They couldn't show -- I remember Bo Van Pelt made eagle on 15 and it's the only time they showed him. They couldn't show everybody that had the chance to win. Schwartzel kind of came out of nowhere and birdied 4 in a row and ended up winning by 2. It's some of the most exciting golf I've ever seen. To do it to win a Major is pretty special.
Q. As a player, what do you have to do to do something like that, just put your head down and birdie, not just par, birdie?
JOHNSON WAGNER: 15 is an easy birdie.
Q. We'll give him that and 16, too.
JOHNSON WAGNER: You just have to be so focused on what you're doing. He obviously knew where he was and how many guys were around him.
He wanted it more than anybody else did, I guess. The putts went in for him when they did. I've never been in that position so I can't really answer.
Q. I was going to say, have you ever done it even in a junior tournament or anything like that?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I've birdied the last four holes on the PGA TOUR probably once, maybe. That's always the goal, coming down the stretch or any -- any round in the tournament we get to the last four and my caddy says, "All right, it's time. Let's do what we do, let's birdie the last four."
I've gotten one or two most of the time but birdieing all four of them is pretty tough.
Q. In '08 you went -- you had a birdie on 18 and then you parred it the next three days. How much of a key was that to the whole weekend, that specific hole?
JOHNSON WAGNER: 18, anybody in this field would take even par for the week on that hole. It's a challenging tee shot, challenging second shot.
It gives you room to bail out to the right both the first and second but it's not an easy par for me in those places. I didn't know that I played it that well that week but playing 18 even or under par is huge for the week.
Q. Is that hole kind of on your mind as you go, is it that imposing?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Little bit. I remember in '08 I was -- I didn't think about it, we have a shuttle from 17 to 18. I got in the shuttle and I was starting to panic about the tee shot with a two shot lead.
We pulled up to the tee box and the group in front was just hitting off the tee. I just thought to myself, "Oh, great, now I got to wait for ten minutes on this tee box with a two shot lead."
I stood on the tee trying not to look at the fairway. I didn't want to let the water creep in. I'm a better golfer than I was then. I think I can get it on land or bunker a lot easier than I did back then.
But, you know, it's a monster of a hole. One of the best finishing holes we have on Tour.
Q. Your donation to The First Tee here. Talk about why you want to do that and you hope that money does here in Houston.
JOHNSON WAGNER: Well, I mean The First Tee is really a special organization, real close to my heart. Golf has done so much for me and, you know, I've been fortunate to visit many First Tees all over the U.S. including this one and, you know, I wanted to give it all to Charlotte but, at the same time, I love Houston, I've won here, my caddy is from here.
I thought that splitting it between the two would be a good thing. I just -- the First Tee brings kids into golf that wouldn't normally have that access. So, if they can just -- I think there's a slogan is, "Ten Million More Kids".
I hope it brings more kids into the program and gives them and teaches them the lessons that I've learned through golf to become a stand-up member of society.
Q. You mentioned Tony Martinez. Is Tony from Keeton Park?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Yes.
Q. How long have you guys been together?
JOHNSON WAGNER: He came the Charlotte to see me right before The Playoffs last year, the week of Greensboro. I met him a couple years ago. He was working with Rich Barcelo. I really just liked his attitude. He had great energy, great mojo, just a really good guy to be around, real positive and then like he came to the Hope this year and he's coming here this week.
We talk on the phone quite a bit. Not quite a year but --
Q. Is there any one thing technically that you can tell us that he's helped you with?
JOHNSON WAGNER: He's gotten me a little taller over the ball. My tendency is to have low hands at address when chipping. Makes for pretty wristy, inconsistent strikes.
It's funny because my Coach, Bobby Hines, who I worked with for ten years or more now, he has the best short game of anybody I've ever seen, PGA TOUR, amateur, what have you.
He's just never been able to teach how he plays the short game to me. And the way Tony teaches it is, in my mind, the way Bobby executes it. It's a really good combo. I think when the three of us -- we haven't had the chance to work together yet. I think when that happens, we'll get some good ideas.
Q. Your workout thing, has your weight changed or is it just redistributed?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I got on the scale, some lady had a scale at the airport, an electronic scale. I got on it Sunday night after Bay Hill.
It said I was the same weight that I was when I started working out. I'm thinking either her scale was off or maybe mine at home is off. I really haven't lost much weight but I'm two to three inches in on my pants and a couple belt loops. I think I've redistributed. I've got so much muscle now (laughter), strong. The mustache weighs ten pounds.
No. I think it's redistributed. I feel better. I look better. So I've got a long way to go, though.
JOHN BUSH: All right. Anything else? Johnson Wagner, thank you, sir.
JOHNSON WAGNER: Thank you guys.
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