LEE Westwood intends to hit the ground running when he makes his first appearance of 2013 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, which starts tomorrow.
The 39-year-old world No 8 has an enviable record at the Emirates Golf Club, taking the runner-up spot three times and amassing a total of seven top ten finishes, but in 19 appearances he has yet to pick up the trophy.
But having moved to Florida towards the end of last year, Westwood – nevertheless still attached to Close House – has spent the off-season practising and honing his short game in the sunshine.
It’s a welcome change from the snow of England and he believes he is starting this campaign better prepared than any other.
“I played a lot more this winter than I would normally do,” he said. “There’s no rust.
“The main reason for moving to Florida was to get more games of golf, as I wouldn’t play normally when I’m at home because of the weather.
“Last week I had shorts on and was out playing with Luke Donald.
“Living in England I’ve always finished the year, gone home, packed the clubs away and came back out trying to catch everyone else.
“My short game is sharper from being out there, especially my putting.”
Westwood has come close to victory over the Majlis course on several occasions, and admits he would love to go one better this time.
“I should have won when I was up against Miguel (Angel Jiménez) in a play-off in 2010, and then last year I had to birdie the last to force a play-off with Rafa (Cabrera-Bello) and missed it, so I feel like I’ve let a couple slip,” he said.
“It’s certainly one I would like to win. I’ve been back here every year apart from one since 1994 and I have a good record. So hopefully this week I’ll play as well as I’ve played the last few years and have a chance again and hopefully finish it off. I feel like I’ve got a chance come Sunday.” Although it is not one of the longest courses on The European Tour International Schedule, Westwood believes the longer hitters often profit. He added: “You look at the winners from the last few years and they’re not short – Rory (McIlroy), Alvaro Quiros, Henrik Stenson and Tiger (Woods).
“It’s a sand-based course so you don’t get much run from your tee shots. It certainly helps to be able to reach the par fives in two.
“I like the fact that it rewards good, solid play.
“If you hit good, solid shots, you have a chance. It’s a good test, which is probably why it has had good winners on it.” The Classic is the final stop on The European Tour’s Middle East swing and the other Close House-attached player in the field, Chris Paisley, has maintained his sense of humour despite three missed cuts in a row.
Paisley tweeted: “Having a day off. Going shopping at the Emirates Mall. Given recent form, hope there’s a poundland!”
SEE tomorrow’s Journal Sport for Lee Westwood’s announcement about his Close House scholarship scheme for boy and girl golfers aged 12 to 16.