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Westy looking to shrug away runner-up tag

Last updated: 29th January 2013

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Lee Westwood celebrates his Nedbank Golf Challenge victory -  his most recent win.

Lee Westwood celebrates his Nedbank Golf Challenge victory - his most recent win.

There is nothing personal about Lee Westwood wanting to stop Rafa Cabrera-Bella from successfully defending his Omega Dubai Desert Classic title this week.

The Englishman, playing in his first event this year, will almost certainly have told himself that it's time to stop his run of runner-up finishes in Dubai; that it is time to claim the title.

In an event annually played at the Emirates Golf Club's highly-rated Majlis course, he was second to Cabrera-Bella last year and was also second in 1999 and 2010

He's not saying it in so many words, perhaps because his first tilt at a title this year will come at a moment in time when his tournament golf is a little rusty and after what will have been a long and tiring, trans-Atlantic flight from Miami, but he's worked hard on his fitness and says he feels more than ready to tackle 2013.

"Since moving to West Palm Beach, I've done a lot of work in the gym and now I'm ready to start the 2013 season," he says on his official website this week.

"My first event is the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. It's a long journey. It's two-and-a-half hours to New York then 12-and-a-half from NY to Dubai . Just thought I'd start the year off with a gentle one!" he added tongue-in-cheek.

Cabrara-Bella, meanwhile, is looking forward to getting back to the Emirates Club where he closed with a winning 64 last year.

"Going back there, being on the same course that gave me my biggest win is going to be special." he has told europeantour.com.

"For me that week meant two big things: One, that I could win a very big tournament with an extremely strong field (I think we had the Number Two, Three and Four in the world) and two, it meant I jumped a long way up in the World Ranking and could get into all the huge world events like the WGCs.

"That helped me gain a lot of experience playing in those bigger tournaments last year, alongside fantastic players on world-class courses."

The world numberss two, three and four won't be there this year. Nor will Rory McIlroy, the world number one, but that won't make the Spanish defending champion's task all that much easier, for along with Westwood, currently the world number seven, the field will once more be a relatively tough one.

For along with Westwood, the field not only includes international Ryder Cup stars of the calibre of Serge Garcia, Paul Casey, Oliver Fisher, Tomas Bjorn, Henrik Stenson, Edoardo Molinari and American major winners Ben Curtis and Mark O'Meara, it also contains a good few of 2013's in-form, early season winners like Scott Jamieson, who currently leads the Race To Dubai money list, Jamie Donaldson and Chris Wood, the winner of last week's Qatar Masters.

Shane Lowery, Richie Ramsay, Robert Rock, Michael Hoey and Simon Dyson are some of the other impressive tour winners who'll be looking for repeat victories at the Emirates GC this week while the likes of Italy's Matteo Manassero, Denmark's Thorbjørn Olesen, England's Danny Willett and Tom Lewis, Austria's Bernd Wiesberger and South Africa's Jbe Kruger are all capable of leading the charge of the young guns.

But to get back to Cabrera-Bello, who could become the first player to successfully defend the title if he wins on Sunday...he says he will focus his thoughts on his good memories of the final round.

"I really enjoyed the last day. I started well and put myself in contention. It was tougher than the other days because the wind had picked up and I was parring many holes, but I stayed patient knowing that pars on a day like that were good.

"I played great on the back nine and the highlights were on the 16th and 17th.

"On the 16th I went in a bunker with the drive and had to play a very risky shot to get out. I was arguing with my caddie about what to do, but I went for it and hit it well and managed to save par.

"I felt that shot took the pressure off me. I played the last two holes feeling very calm and managed to birdie the 17th.

"No one feels completely comfortable walking down the 18th with only a one shot lead, but I knew neither Stephen (Gallacher) nor Lee (Westwood) had made birdie on the 17th so at worst I would be in a play-off. Fortunately I won."



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