Westwood: 'It'll be different to playing the club fourball'September 26, 2017 Golf News
European Tour legend Lee Westwood is part of the heartbeat of Close House - even down to playing in club competitions...
You’re channelling your inner Seve. ‘I’m going to bury you’. It’s the pairs’ knockout and you’ve convinced yourself there’s a spot on the honours board with you and your partner’s name on it. It’s destiny.
But waiting for you on the first tee, with outstretched hand, is Lee Westwood.
Your opponent today has won 42 times as a professional, played in 10 Ryder Cups and topped the world rankings.
How do you feel now?
For members at Close House, this isn’t a dream.
The European Tour legend is so embedded into the Newcastle resort, he’s actually taken part in the ‘club fourball’.
He’s got his own parking space. The clubhouse walls are adorned with flags and mementos from his exploits around the world.
Westwood’s been attached here since 2011 but this isn’t simply a sponsorship opportunity. Newcastle, and Close House, is home.
“Teeing it up on Thursday will be slightly different to playing in the club fourball, that’s for sure,” he joked ahead of the start of the British Masters.
“I have been made very welcome here. I obviously get on really well with Graham (Wylie, owner) and he was my partner in the club fourball. I’ll not tell you that he let me down.
“We have got such hectic schedules that we got to about the semis and we had to split up and play with different partners.
“But obviously I know a lot of the members and I’ve played with a lot of them so it will be nice for them to have a tournament at their golf club and be able to walk round and watch me doing my job.”
They will be out in force. So there’s expectation on Westwood – and not just from the membership.
From the moment it was announced he would host the British Masters, there was feverish planning to bring the tournament to the North East.
Westwood wasn’t a passive observer. He was intimately involved, from the changes to the course to cajoling his colleagues on tour to sign up.
“I just got them all drunk and asked them when they were drunk,” he quipped when quizzed on how he’d manage to assemble a field that included Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy.
“I asked Sergio over a year ago and he said yes. Obviously, I’ve got on with Sergio for many years. I’ve played with him in the Ryder Cup and I asked Rory at Sergio’s wedding.
“We had a couple of glasses of wine and he said if he didn’t get to the Tour Championship – he’d been playing a lot in the lead up to this and he was playing the Dunhill as well – he’d think seriously about playing here.
“He didn’t get to the Tour Championship and he committed pretty much straight away after that. It’s great that he’s supporting it, great for me that he’s turning out and he’s one of the few players in the world that I would turn out at a golf tournament to watch.
“The likes of Alex (Noren), who’s defending champion, and Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Matt Fitzpatrick, Chris Wood – all those people – for them to be supporting the event is obviously brilliant.
“It’s one of the strongest fields we’ve had all year on tour.”
It’s often said familiarity breeds contempt. Will Westwood’s detailed knowledge of the Colt course, compiled from dozens of social rounds, work against him?
He knows the contours. He knows where to miss it. But does he know too much? We’ll find out.
“People have said ‘you must know the course really well’. But, when you turn up on a Saturday morning, and you are playing with your mates, you are going to play it slightly differently to the way I am going to play it in the tournament this week,” he explained.
“There are a few holes out there where I might pull driver out straight away, not really think about it, and hit it down 10 yards short of the green.
“I was standing on a couple of the tees out there (today) thinking ‘this is not driver, this is a 3-wood and leave a full shot in’.
“Tomorrow, I am going to go round the course and really clear my mind and look at it from an ‘if I’d never played it before’ kind of aspect.
“Obviously, I know a few breaks on the greens and where to miss it and where not to miss it.
“I have got that in my mind but I am just going to have to set out a slightly different game plan for tournament golf.”