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Westwood & Kaymer Hope to Get to the Tape First in Race to Dubai
Only three players have a chance to win the inaugural $7.5 million Race to Dubai: Ireland's Rory McIlroy, England's Lee Westwood and Germany's Martin Kaymer. The event tees off Thursday on the Greg Norman-designed Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates in the Middle East kingdom.
On Tuesday from the tournament site, Westwood and Kaymer - in separate interview sessions, sat down with reporters and discussed their chances of winning the European Tour's top prize.
Lee Westwood Interview
MODERATOR: Lee, great pleasure to see you here, first time at the Earth Course, Jumeirah Golf Estates for the Dubai World Championship, and it's pretty simple what you've got to do. You win the tournament, you win the big pot.
LEE WESTWOOD: Well, yeah, there's lots of different permutations I suppose. It obviously would be nice to win the tournament, yeah. You know, that's what I'll be trying to do this week.
MODERATOR: Have you had a chance to see the course?
LEE WESTWOOD: No, I haven't been out there yet. It was too busy with press on it yesterday. Couldn't get a tee time. (Laughter).
MODERATOR: The one thing is, it is a race, and we've got four people who can still win it. So from a public perspective and media and television, it's great.
LEE WESTWOOD: It is amongst is the everybody, the players, the media, the public at home. So, yeah, it's been an improvement on the usual Money List that we used to run, and I think it's been good for everybody, really, good for the Tour and good for Dubai and good for world golf.
MODERATOR: I think as well the fact that so many people have taken over the No. 1 position and lost it again and regained it.
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, it's by no means over. I mean, I back in 2000, you probably know better than me from the stats, but I think I was more an 128,000 behind going into the last event. So, I've done it before, and I can do it again.
Q. Do you know all of the permutations? Have you worked them all out or has somebody worked them out for you?
LEE WESTWOOD: I thought you were going to do it, but you were all busy on the golf course.
Q. Has your father?
LEE WESTWOOD: No, I don't think he has. He's not bothered. He's more worried about his Race to Dubai fantasy league than mine. He's about ninth, by the way.
Q. Do you think you'll find yourself looking at the positions of the other three more than you would do in a normal tournament?
LEE WESTWOOD: No, I don't think so. You know, I'm going to try and come here and win the golf tournament, and everything else will take care of itself after that. I was obviously leading before last week, but you know, got to that golf course, took a look at it and thought immediately that it wasn't the kind of golf course that was going to suit me. So you know, just put that to the back of my mind and try and play this one this week, which I think will suit a bit better.
Q. How difficult was it for you, you said you were not going to change your putting style -
LEE WESTWOOD: I didn't bother.
Q. How tough was it to say, well, I should be trying harder but I'm not going to because next week is more important?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, when you look at it over the context of the year, you know, 100 and whatever it is behind, 128,000, is it, I don't know, and that's the difference between. You look back, bogeyed last two holes at St. Andrews links to go from about fifth to ninth; bogeyed the last hole in China to drop down, bogeyed the last hole at The Open obviously. Could have been a live-changing experience. Lost a playoff in France. You know, it's been small things here and there throughout the year, not just last week.
So in the grand scheme of things, I think if you're going to narrow it down, last week is irrelevant, really, compared to what's on for this week and the effect that a good performance this week can have. I think you look at the top of the Money List, Martin is up there because he's won two of the biggest events until the middle of the year. Ross Fisher has played consistently, just recently won the Match Play to get into it. I think amongst everybody, probably me and Rory have played the most consistent. I think we have had the most Top-10 finishes. Geoff is up there because he did really well at the Match Play at the start of the year, won a big check there.
So a lot of different things can go into the winning of The Race to Dubai. You can't really sort of set out at the start of the year to make it your goal. You just have to take each week individually and try and perform well on those weeks. I sat down at the start of the year and made my major championships the goal, so as far as I'm concerned, it's been a pretty successful year no matter what happens.
Q. Was it a mistake to go last week?
LEE WESTWOOD: In hindsight, yeah, I think it probably was. I obviously didn't know the golf course because I had never been there. But looking back on it now, it was a course that definitely didn't suit me, predominantly a hooker's golf course, a lot of shots off the tee where it suited somebody that drew it and hit a hard draw, which is not my shot. I've worked a lot this year on sort of 60 to 100 yards out, but it's still not as sharp as everybody else is, and there were a lot of those shots last week and a lot of 5-wood wedge holes, 3-wood wedge holes, and obviously only two par 5s. No rough, which generally doesn't suit my game. I like harder golf courses where there's a bigger premium on tee-to-green stuff. So you occasionally get weeks where things are not in your favor. I had a busy week off the golf course, too. I had a lot of stuff to do. I was a bit lethargic, really, throughout the week.
Q. Is there any of that left over?
LEE WESTWOOD: No, not really. I've sort of -- after 16 years out here and a few up-and-downs, I've sort of managed to be able to block average weeks out and move on on a Monday morning.
Q. Does it worry you that there's no rough here?
LEE WESTWOOD: Why? Have you chopped it all the way around yesterday? (Laughter).
Q. You'll see the marks.
LEE WESTWOOD: You left it scarred, have you? Well, I obviously won't hit it where you hit it yesterday. I'll be a lot further back going in with a lot more club. But I've heard there's a not a lot of rough out there, but it's a lot longer golf course. You're going to be hitting a lot longer clubs in. I think the greens, from what I hear, are large, but they have sections where there are dead elephants in some of them, so it's going to be a premium on hitting iron shots close. So, we'll see. Whichever way, it will be an exciting week.
MODERATOR: The great thing is no one has absolutely had a chance to master it yet. It's new to everyone.
LEE WESTWOOD: We are all in the same boat.
Q. Would winning The Race to Dubai this year be a greater achievement than 2000 because of what's happened in between?
LEE WESTWOOD: I don't think it would mean any more. You know, it meant a lot in 2000, because I had won six stroke, seven events, because the Match Play doesn't count on the Money List. So that obviously meant a lot to me because not that many people won that many events in one year. So, no. Short answer.
Q. As he's your nearest rival, how much respect do you have for Rory as a 20-year-old chasing you and be chasing him, etc.?
LEE WESTWOOD: I have a lot of respect for everybody, you know, who plays golf well. Obviously with Rory being 20, it's remarkable, really, how good he's got so quickly. So you know, he may be the best young player in the world, absolutely no doubt about it for me.
Q. Early on has he asked for any advice at all?
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, a little bit, and I've given it.
Q. And is it going to come back and bite you this week?
LEE WESTWOOD: I don't think it would do, no. I bunched Ryo in that bracket, as well. I've played with him and the thing that impressed me about Ryo is the fact that he's a good winner. He's got that winning habit already. It's a very difficult knack to grasp, being able to win multiple times in a year, and he seems to do it quite easily. He makes winning look easy. So those two are the best two I think.
Q. When did you last play with Rory in a tournament? Which I presume you will in the first round?
LEE WESTWOOD: (Thinking) Switzerland, first two days.
Q. Has there -
LEE WESTWOOD: Sorry. Takes my mind a bit longer to work now that I'm old.
Q. Has there been any banter between you off the course about this, and is experience going to help you at all in the last couple of days maybe?
LEE WESTWOOD: We've had a bit of banter, but -
Q. Side bets?
LEE WESTWOOD: No side bets, no. I think there's enough on it. What was the other question, sorry.
Q. Experience, is it going to count for anything?
LEE WESTWOOD: I think it's better to have been in that position than to not have, yeah. I think it's the same with anything. You know what to expect and if you've handled it well before, you can always feed off that.
Q. Would winning The Race to Dubai mean more to you than being competitive in those majors?
LEE WESTWOOD: No. If you're going to set goals out, there's no point in changing your mind at the end of it just to suit yourself. No point in setting a goal then, is there. You know, my goal at the start of the season was to start to play better in the majors and the World Golf Championships and contend in them, and I gave myself a good chance at winning the odd one and probably should have won it; PGA, highest finish in that one. You know, you have to occasionally accept it that you're not going to win, but be happy with the lot. Which he can check.
Q. You've had a bit of banter with Rory on the BBC blog and everything.
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah.
Q. Obviously it's good-natured and everything, but is it good to have that little bit of personal edge and sort of -- I don't know if it's a laugh, but the fact that you are winding each other up.
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, it's just friendly batter. I don't think it's a Ferguson/Wenger of thing. (Laughter). We're just having a laugh.
Q. Is there a part of you that would like this to really go down to the wire, between the two of you on the 18th together?
LEE WESTWOOD: No, I would like to have about a 15-shot lead with one hole to play on Sunday evening. But I don't think that will happen. It's not something that I've really thought about to be perfectly honest. I'm just trying to get my game in good shape for Thursday morning, or afternoon, whenever we are out, and see what happens from there. I know if I play well enough this week, and putt well enough, I'll win.
Q. You said that you're not as sharp as others 60 to 100 yards. How far behind are you?
LEE WESTWOOD: I think that's the area in my game where I can improve the most. It's hard to quantify it, but it's certainly an area of my game that I'm not as happy with as everything else. I would say it's my main weakness. I worked a lot on my short game, short, 40 yards in and bunker play recently, and that's up to a standard now where I think it's 5th in the world standard where I am. But I don't think from 50 to 100 yards, it is. So that's the area of the game I'll be working on over the winter. But I'm not -- you know, I'm not going to kid you, winning The Race to Dubai would mean a lot, but since the US PGA has finished, all of my thoughts on working on my game have been geared towards next April at Augusta, because I've won an Order of Merit. Majors are things that I haven't won and they are the things that I'm gearing my game towards.
MODERATOR: Well, Lee, we'll be interested to hear your verdict when you finish. Thank you very much for coming in.
Martin Kaymer Interview
MODERATOR: A warm welcome, Martin, to the Jumeirah Golf Estates for the first Dubai World Championship, the end of The Race to Dubai, and it's a pretty interesting few days ahead, isn't it, with four of you still with a chance of winning.
MARTIN KAYMER: Yeah, definitely. I think the first seven, eight players, they still have the chance to win The Race to Dubai after this event. Obviously I'm trying my best to get up there. But I think the difference between the sixth or seventh to the first is very, very close. Everything is very close together. And they are good players up there, and it's a very interesting golf course, so I think for the spectators and even for us, as players, it will be a very exciting week.
MODERATOR: Lee Westwood was in here just a few minutes ago, he has not seen the golf course and you've been here for a few days now. What are your initial impressions of Greg Norman's design here?
MARTIN KAYMER: Well, I'm here since Sunday. I didn't play on Sunday. I was just on the range hitting some balls, getting used to the grass and get a feel for the golf course. I played nine holes yesterday, only the front nine. I will obviously play 18 today in the Pro-Am. I think it's a very spectacular golf course, very deep bunkers, long golf course. But the good thing is they have wide fairways here so we can spread it out a little bit. But I think it's all about short game this week, because there are a lot of slopes on the greens, a lot of ridges. So you have to be very precise with your irons, with your approaches, and if you miss the green, then it all comes down to, yeah, to the short game. I think that's a big thing this week.
MODERATOR: When you hurt your foot, were you very concerned that you might not be in this position today what chance to win The Race to Dubai?
MARTIN KAYMER: Well, two or three months ago, I couldn't remember, when I had that accident and I went to the hospital, I asked the doctor, how long it takes that I can play golf again. He said, well, maybe 12 weeks, 12, 14 weeks. I said, "No, we have to speed that up somehow." I don't know how but we have to speed it up. Of course, I was thinking about that I can not be here today and not play this tournament, and maybe don't have the chance to win The Race to Dubai. Because this was always my goal, you know, my goal for my career, to be the best in Europe, and this year I have a really good chance. I put myself in a good position, so I really wanted to take that opportunity and make it happen. So of course, I really thought about it the last few weeks, but when I got back in Castellon and played well there, then I figured out that I still have a chance to win it.
Q. What did you do to speed up the process? And are you still getting discomfort from the foot now?
MARTIN KAYMER: Yeah, I would say it's 85, 90 per cent healed. I did a lot of work with my physio in Germany. We worked on it almost every day. Saw the doctor every second day when I was in Germany. I didn't do a lot of sports the last five, six weeks. I just put the leg in the air and just tried to take it easy. I didn't do anything, just tried to rest and give the foot a chance to heal properly. So that was the only thing I did. I had a lot of treatment with my physio and the doctor in Germany.
Q. Would you have come back as soon as you did if this wasn't on the line? Did you hurry your recovery schedule?
MARTIN KAYMER: Probably not. I mean, the doctor said -- before I played in Castellon, the doctor said, "I'm not recommending that you play this soon. I would rather see you be home another two weeks and then start in" -- would have been probably HSBC. But the doctor is always really careful with those things, and I was the only one who could feel that it will be okay. Of course I was limping and always on the back nine, it didn't feel good, but I could feel I would survive and I don't make it worse. So that was the most important for me, that I don't make it worst; I survived, finished second, all good.
MODERATOR: Are you glad that you made the choice, because you are now competitive coming into this week.
MARTIN KAYMER: Definitely. If I would have skipped Castellon, then I would have been, I don't know how many points or Euros behind Rory, and I think it was a good thing that I played Castellon, of course.
Q. What's your attitude to the accident now? Do you write it off as one of those things, or has it made you rethink how you spend your leisure time?
MARTIN KAYMER: Well, you know, if I'm honest, shit happens (laughter). So it was just unlucky, very unlucky accident. It was not my fault. It was the fault from the other driver. He crashed into me, and pushed me into the guys in front of me. So it was not my fault. It was just very unlucky. But I'm sure that I will do it again in the future, go go-karting, have fun. I did it so many years when I was young, I was in the go cart club, and it was -- you know, I'm a big fan of fast cars, just driving around. The other good thing is we have the Autobahn in Germany where you can go a bit faster than the other areas the in ready world. So I think I will do it again for sure.
Q. You said earlier that you stopped doing other sports. Apart from go-karting what would you be doing in your leisure type? What sort of sports do you go in for?
MARTIN KAYMER: The only thing I can do is swimming where I don't put any pressure on my foot. That was the only sport I could really do. And I tried to do some work for my upper body where I don't have to use my foot. That was pretty much my -- the only thing I could do, no running, what I used to do all the time. That was very unfortunate.
Q. Is there something that you gave up, are you a big squash player or tennis player?
MARTIN KAYMER: Not really squash, no. No tennis. But I used to run a lot, and use the bicycle, driving around. And that was quite tough to sit at home all the time, do the same stuff all over again, you know, go swimming in the morning. It's not my favorite sport, but that was the only thing I could do to keep my body fit.
Q. How great an achievement do you think it would be, given the layoff that you had, to win The Race to Dubai?
MARTIN KAYMER: Well, I think I'm already pretty happy where I am right now. After eight weeks not playing any tournaments, and I'm still third, and still have a chance to win The Race to Dubai, I think that's a good indication for myself that I'm on the right way to get better in the future, and that I can compete against the best guys in the world, and obviously here in Europe. So for myself obviously it would be huge to win The Race to Dubai in the end of the week. But if I see Rory and Lee Westwood playing, it's going to be a really tough week or a really tough one to win on Sunday.
Q. Was it the first go-kart accident you've ever had?
MARTIN KAYMER: Yes.
Q. And totally unrelated to that, when did you first think you had the talent to be European No. 1, when you joined the Tour or a lot earlier than that?
MARTIN KAYMER: Probably when I won my second tournament on The Challenge Tour, I could feel that I'm playing a little bit better than the other guys on The Challenge Tour, but I didn't really know if it would be enough to be Top-10 in Europe or maybe Top-10, Top-20 in the world, I didn't really know that at that time. But after my first season on The European Tour where I played well, I had a few Top-10s, and then after my first win in Abu Dhabi, I could feel that I belong here on The European Tour, and that I have a good chance to be in the Top-10 at one stage in the world, maybe a little higher.
Q. What is it about the games of Rory and Lee, the way they play?
MARTIN KAYMER: Well, I think they play very, very consistent. I was almost 100 per cent sure, especially HSBC, I was 100 per cent sure after the third round that Rory was something special on Sunday. Because he finished always well in the World Golf Championships events, and, well, it's not a big surprise for me that he shot a 63, the course record. Well, I was not expecting a 63, but maybe 67, 66. And Lee Westwood, I was surprised about his last round in Hong Kong, but I think in general, they are very consistent, good players. Rory is a few years younger than me, but he's already one of the best players in the world I would think, and he will definitely play a lot of Ryder Cups in the future. Hopefully I can join him for that. And if you have a look back on Lee Westwood's career, how many wins he had, how many times he won The Race to Dubai already; he's just almost a legend here on the European Tour.
Q. Does this course suit Lee or Rory best, and why?
MARTIN KAYMER: I mean, I haven't really played with Rory. I played with him once. I don't know how he really plays. But I think if you are up there in the world, if you are Top-10, Top-15 in the world, you are able to play on every golf course.
Q. Have you considered taking up membership on the PGA Tour?
MARTIN KAYMER: Not next year. I don't think in two years, because I still feel so comfortable here on The European Tour. I play the big events, I play a different kind of golf course. I can feel right now that it makes my game better. I still improve every week, if I play on different kind of grass. So that's why I try to play in many different countries and continents, because I can see that the way how the golf courses are set up, that I can improve every week and I can learn. And in America, every week is pretty much the same. You know, you've got great weather, the courses are similar. So at the moment, I still want to learn more and I want to play more on The European Tour, and maybe in Asia. I can't really answer that question, if I see myself in a few years in America, I don't know. But at the moment, I would say that I will definitely stay a member in Europe for a long time.
Q. Do you think that Rory taking up membership on the PGA Tour next year is possibly a little earlier in his career?
MARTIN KAYMER: Well, if he feels like he should do it, why not.
Q. Are you worried that your lack of competitive golf over the last two months might hinder your challenge for the title here, say, come the weekend?
MARTIN KAYMER: Sorry, I didn't understand that.
Q. Are you worried that your lack of competitive golf over the past few months might hinder or affect your ability to challenge for the title here?
MARTIN KAYMER: No, not at all. You can see it in Castellon, when I made that double on the par 5, I didn't really expect myself to win, but I still tried to fight till the end. I was playing very aggressive the last three or four holes to put myself in a position to win the tournament. I don't know, but the last three are four holes I was kind of in this zone where you are really focused on your own game, and it was great after eight weeks' break, and I showed myself that I can compete even with such a long break. So I don't really see the disadvantage that I had a break.
Q. You won your first title in Abu Dhabi, you challenged for the Desert Classic last year, as well. It's clear you enjoy and like playing here in the Middle East.
MARTIN KAYMER: Yeah, I do. It's very similar to Arizona where I'm practicing in the winter. It's very similar, similar golf courses, and like you said I always play well when I come over here. I like Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The golf courses suit myself very, very well. So that's why I'm expecting a good result for myself this week, too.
Q. What do you consider your strengths and your weaknesses?
MARTIN KAYMER: Well, I heard this week that my strength is putting. I finished first in the Genworth Statistics, so I would say that that's my strength. My driving is pretty good, but I can definitely improve my chipping and pitching. Slipping the last few weeks maybe because of the break, you lose a little bit of the touch there. There are always things to work on, but I think at the moment my chipping and pitching is probably the main problem, if you want to call it a problem.
Q. At the start of the year, did you actually write down goals for this season, where you wanted to be?
MARTIN KAYMER: I know my goals in my mind, and yeah, I don't really write them down.
Q. Is Europe's No. 1 one of them, to finish No. 1?
MARTIN KAYMER: Well, that was my goal before I turned pro. I had a few goals before I turned pro; that I want to become the No. 1 in Europe one day, and a few other goals. But please don't ask (smiling). Yeah, it was definitely a goal that I was planning to achieve in the future, and obviously this week, I have the chance to make it happen. If it doesn't happen this week, then I hope it will happen one day.
MODERATOR: Well, Martin, good luck this week and may the best man win. Thank you very much.
The transcripts for the above interviews are courtesy of ASAP Sports.
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