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In Shape and In Stitches

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The Players ChampionshipPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – In the late 1990s, Lee Westwood found himself squarely in the sights of golf’s Jack LaLanne, Gary Player.

“He said I was fat and out of shape,” Westwood recalls.  “And he was right. I wasn’t very fit.”

Weswood’s caddie, Billy Foster, puts it this way: “Try a salad once in a while,” he cracked, laughing hysterically.

And this is why Westwood today is one of the best in the world, leading yet another important championship. He’s now in shape and usually in stitches.

“Wednesday we played with Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell and you’d have thought it was a circus out there, laughing and joking,” Foster said.

“He’s got that north of England dry sense of humor,” McIlroy said of Westwood. “He’s pretty witty. He cracks a few jokes here and there and a little bit of banter goes on between us.”

Westwood countered, “I couldn’t talk about the banter that goes on between me and Billy. That’s far too disgusting.”

Naturally, you’d expect a good sense of humor from the man whose dad was a math teacher and mom a chiropodist.

“A chiropodist, yeah,” said Westwood, as if we understood.

“She plays with feet,” explained Foster.

“Working with feet so you know I’ve got pretty good feet inside these shoes,” said Westwood with a smile.

Good feet and a good game. Westwood added muscle and 20 yards to his tee ball working with trainer Steve MacGregor, who was recently asked to toughen up the NBA's New York Knicks. Perhaps they’ll learn how to get to the hole like Westwood.

“He drives the ball as good as anybody in the world right now,” said Foster, who’s caddied for Seve Ballesteros, Darren Clarke and Sergio Garcia. “And his iron play is as good as anybody, so it’s a good combination. His chipping has improved a lot this year which has always held him back.”

Westwood’s outlook is also quite good. He refuses to let recent setbacks deter him, not the disappointment of the Masters or last year’s British Open, nor the volcanic ash that forced him to cancel a Barbados vacation.

“I would have come here nine pounds heavier as well as rusty,” he joked.

Indeed Westwood’s mood is light and his game polished. Now after going 67-65, he’s ready for another weekend on the big stage.

“You get that sort of little tingle when The Players Championship is getting close,” he said.

“Tingle?” asked a reporter.

“What would you call it, that little excitement,” responded Westwood. “You get a tingle when you get excited, don’t you.”

“I don’t have one right now,” said the scribe.

“I will not go there,” said Westwood, and everyone busted out in laughter.

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