MMO preview: What they said

Wed 16 Apr 2014

MMO preview: What they said

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Lee Westwood (Eng)
Great week last week at the Masters, how would you assess your game at the moment?
It’s coming along nicely. I started working with my new coach, Mike Walker, about six weeks ago. I’m starting to hit the ball a lot better. I’ve got a lot more control, I’m driving it a lot straighter and distance control is coming back. I’m hitting my iron shots a lot closer, and my confidence is building all the time.
How tricky is it adjusting when you come here, with a different time zone and climate etc?
It’s very difficult. It’s a 12 hour time difference and a long journey. But I’ve done this many times before so I know how to deal with it.
Is there sentimental attachment to this event, given that you won it in 1997?
It’s certainly nice to be back. It’s been a few years since I played here and 17 years since I won – probably before someone in the field was even born. I’ve forgotten how much fun Kuala Lumpur is and how nice the people are.
How has your move to America affected your game?
I have to contend much less with flying around the world, so I feel a lot fresher. My short game has definitely improved – which I showed last week at the Masters. It’s a great way of life over there – very relaxed. And coming here, it doesn’t feel such a shock because I’m used to the heat and humidity in Florida.
How’s the golf course looking?
It’s the first time I’ve seen it and I’m very impressed. Someone I was talking to said it’s in the best condition it’s ever been in, so it should be a good week. You get a fair bit of rain in this region, so it’s probably playing as long as it’s possible to play. There’s not a long of run on the ball. But I’m surprised how firm the greens are. It’s a good design. Not a lot of room so you have to be quite strategic.
Are you preparing yourself for the inevitable storm delays?
Yes, I think you have to be ready for that. You often get a lot of stop-starts in this part of the world, you just accept that. It’s nice to have a morning draw tomorrow and hopefully I can get a low round under my belt and then see what the forecast is like for the next few days.
You’ve had a lot of success in Asia, why is that?
I don’t know. I seem to play well in this part of the world. Maybe it’s the grass or the heat, but I can’t really think of a reason for it.
What do you remember about your win in 1997?
I remember more about the year after, when I came to defend and lost in a play-off. I stuck it in a tree with my driver off the deck. It must have only been my third pro win, so I was picking up the winning habit quickly and never really got out of it. It was a good platform for me.
Has the game changed a lot in Asia in all the years you’ve been playing over here?
It’s a lot stronger out here now and the players are far better. The golf courses are far better and the prize funds are increasing, so it’s definitely trending up.
Thongchai Jaidee (Tha)
Nice to be back on a favourite hunting ground?
Yes, I was in Malaysia three weeks ago for the EurAsia Cup. It is nice to be back. I’ve been here many years since I won the Malaysian Open in 2004 and 2005. The golf course looks better than last year and the conditions are good.
Can you talk a bit about your Master experience?
It was the third time I played at the Masters. The first two times was a learning experience for me. I think the more you play at Augusta National, the better you get. I played quite well there and I’m very happy with my performance. My key goal was to make the cut because it was the only Major where I didn’t make the halfway cut before. I definitely improved this year and it gives me more confidence.
After you play well in a Major tournament, you always get more confidence. I’m definitely happy with how I played and I think that I’ll continue to carry on my form. I travelled all the way from the United States but I don’t feel any jet lag. I slept a lot on the plane and I feel great now.
Have you thought of moving to the PGA Tour?
It is difficult to play on the PGA Tour. I tried two or three times but I didn’t make it. Now you do not have a Qualifying School and you need to play in the Web.com Tour. If I can, I will play in the United States. Right now my main Tours now are the Asian Tour and European Tour and I have enough tournaments for the year. I learn a lot of things playing in Asia and in Europe so I don’t mind.
Can you talk a bit about the EurAsia Cup where you captained Team Asia to a draw with Europe?
It was all down to hard work. I want to thank Boonchu because we did a lot of work. The weather really helped us during that week because we are used to the heat. The European team was so strong so it was a good fight back on the final day.
How much did winning back-to-back Malaysian Opens help with your career?
My golf game has really improved since my victories. I’ve always said that I like playing in Malaysia. I think everyone can win here. The golf course is long and open.
Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa)
Nice to be back in Malaysia?
Yes, it is nice to be back. I like the golf course so hopefully I can make it a good week.
How do you find the golf course?
The greens were unbelievable this morning. I remembered that it was a bit more grainy when I won. I think we will see a lot of guys making a lot of putts this week.
You had a stomach bug at the Masters. Are you fully recovered?
I’m fine now. I don’t know what that was. I just struggled on Saturday morning but by Sunday I was fine. It must have been something I ate. All good now.
What do you think of your performance at the Masters?
It was a disappointing week. I felt that I played a lot better than finishing in 25th place. You always learn something at Augusta (National Golf Club).
Are you happy with your game?
Yeah, my game is feeling good. I played nicely this morning. I think it will all come down to making putts here.
What do you think will be the winning score here?
I don’t even remember what’s my score when I won here! I think it is going to be close to 20-under. You never know. I think you have to shoot at least a four-under average every day. You got to get close to 20-under to win.
What do you remember from your win in 2012?
I remembered that I played very well on the last few holes. I made a birdie putt on the 13th hole which put me two shots up. Then I made a good birdie on 16 and that made it easier playing the last hole with a three-shot lead. It is always nice to have a bit of pressure off you heading into the last few holes. It was a bit windy on Sunday when the storm comes in. Other than that, the course looks great.
Having won here before, do you think that’s an advantage?
It is always an advantage when you won on a golf course before. Not much has changed so you got to play well and get the ball in the hole! You just feel a bit more comfortable when you have won on a course before.
Matteo Manassero (Ita)
You must be excited to be back here at a place with such good memories of your win in 2011?
I’ve been back every year since I won, and every time has been a great. I like this place, this event, this golf course and the atmosphere here. The people here really care a lot about this tournament and about golf, and you get good crowds. It’s really grown every year.
It’s a beautiful place and it has big grandstands, which isn’t usually the case, so it feels like a really big event. I’m really happy to be here again.
How are you feeling after the long journey over from America?
I’m trying to recover. The flight was very comfortable and I managed to sleep well, but the 12 hour time difference is really hard to handle. We arrived on Tuesday morning and we start tomorrow, so I think the first couple of days I’ll just be trying to hang in there and try to not fall asleep or switch off on the golf course. That’s going to be really important. I slept pretty well last night and today I feel okay. By tomorrow I should be ok and as the week goes on I should get better and better.
Two of your four wins have come in this part of the world. What is it about South-East Asia that you like so much?
I like the sun and I hate playing in the rain. I don’t mind wind, but more than anything I like to know it’s going to be a sunny day. Once I know that, my mind is relaxed and I’m comfortable. When it rains here, we’re off the golf course, so it’s never an issue here. It’s probably the courses too – I like the greens and never struggle to read them. There’s a little less grain on the greens here, and they are looking really good this year. This course is not so demanding off the tee, but 150 yards and in is the crucial part. If you can make a lot of birdie chances, you’ll definitely be up there.
Prom Meesawat (Tha)
It’s good to come back here again. We’ve played on this course many times and each time we’re back, it is still not an easy course to play. The “Amen Corner”, 11, 12 and 13, they are tough holes and you need to find the fairways there. I’ll try to enjoy the golf this week.
The game is feeling steady from tee to green, I’m just trying to work on my putting a bit. I feel confident with my game right now. I’ll need to stay with my game plan, hit greens and hope to make some putts.
I played in a local event last week and made only one double bogey and one bogey which shows my game is pretty consistent now. The course here is an advantage for long hitters, you have to hit a carry of 270 yards on some holes and the par fives are reachable for the long hitters. You can get into trouble easily on this course but I think the rough is down a bit this year. Hopefully I can have a good week.
We’ve been planning to have a baby since last year. I’ve tried to keep it quiet but it’s now eight weeks and we’re lucky that we’re expecting twins. I’m trying to take care of my wife and telling her to slow down on everything in the first three months of the pregnancy. It’s a very special time for me. Of course I have to work harder now! With twins, I’ve got to earn double ... I’ve got to work very hard and play in tournaments every week.
Every time I see a Thai player winning, I feel very proud. We are showing that we have good golfers despite our country being small. It’s very special when Thais win a tournament, especially so when Kiradech Aphibarnrat won the Maybank Malaysian Open last year.
I think this week, it’s a good chance for another Thai player. Prayad Marksaeng is in good form and Thongchai Jaidee made the cut in the Masters and is in good form. Kiradech is struggling a bit but he always plays good on this course. I’m going to try my best to be at the top of the leaderboard.
Two weeks before last year’s Malaysian Open, we were playing in India and back then, I had my European Tour card.  Kiradech said he would try to follow me and get his card through the co-sanctioned tournaments. Then, he goes on to win the Malaysian Open to get a three-year exemption and I’ve got only one year. His success on Tour was very quick. Now, I’ve got to get back my card in Europe for next year so that we can play together in Europe.
Arjun Atwal (Ind)
It’s good to be back, always fun to be here. But I don’t know how the game will be as I haven’t played competitively since last year’s Indian Open. It’s a little rusty but at least the body doesn’t feel bad unlike last year where I was struggling.
The win at the Mines (2003) was good as it was my second co-sanctioned tournament win. I was struggling in Europe in the previous year after winning in Singapore. Winning in Kota Permai (2008) was significant as I was coming off some injuries and also the car accident which also kind of kicked off my career in the US again.
I’m going to get three to four starts on the PGA Tour this year. There is a bunch of players coming back from medical exemptions and a couple of senior tour players are taking their career money exemption this year, so that limits the playing opportunities for guys like me.
I need to Monday qualify in a few and hope to get a few sponsors’ exemptions into tournaments. Hopefully I will get into eight to 10 tournaments this year. We’ll see how that goes. I know I will play in three tournaments. It is going to be tough for me this year.
I want to spend a little more time in Asia. But it’s really hard with my kids, it’s tough travelling all the way here from the US. If I don’t get into tournaments there, I’m going to have to come out here to play. Like I said, I don’t have a concrete plan yet.
The past few months, I’ve been on rehab, trying to get stronger with my back and left knee. I’m 41 now but it’s getting better. I can practice a little bit more, which I couldn’t do at all last year. The game feels alright.
I have a bunch of friends who are in their 40s or are over 40s on Tour. They give me a lot of inspiration, players like Steve Stricker, Vijay Sing, Jim Furyk – these guys are still going strong and are great examples. Age is nothing. If you’re healthy, it’s not a big deal.
I’m using the same Malaysian caddie Rosli on the bag this week. He’s the same, he doesn’t care about anything and just goes out to carry the bag which is a good thing.
Ends