Westwood driven to distraction
European number one Lee Westwood is looking forward to a problem-free Dubai Desert Classic.
European number one Lee Westwood is looking forward to a problem-free Dubai Desert Classic this week after nearing a solution to the latest issue to hit his season.
Westwood missed the cut in Abu Dhabi after citing problems with a new set of irons before his title challenge in Qatar last week was halted after cracking the face of his driver during the third round in Doha.
Westwood was unhappy with the replacement for the final round, but the 36-year-old believes he has found a solution ahead of Thursday’s first round at Emirates Golf Club.
“I have been inundated with PING drivers over the last couple of days and I think we’re gradually getting it sorted,” the world number four said.
“I’ve got three or four I can choose from – I’ll just pick the best and then I will have two or three back ups.
“I think around any golf course, long, straight driving is an asset and that is one of my strongest weapons.
“But I feel like my short game has nearly clicked into place where it was last year and my irons feel good. I feel distance control is very good with this new set of irons.
“I have also had the wedges tested from last year and they passed the groove test so I am using the same wedges as last year so the distance control shouldn’t be too much of an issue.”
World number nine Rory McIlroy returns to the scene of his maiden victory 12 months ago looking to convert a run of seven top-10 finishes in his last eight events into a second career triumph.
Abu Dhabi champion Martin Kaymer, a seemingly fully-fit Paul Casey and Dubai-based Henrik Stenson complete the line up of five of the world’s top 10, with world number 17 Robert Karlsson looking to build on last week’s impressive victory in Doha.
Like Westwood, 2007 champion Stenson has endured club-related problems of late, although the Swede’s driver troubles have stretched back much longer than just last week.
The Players Championship winner has recently opted to leave the driver in the bag following a dip in confidence and use a three wood off the tee.
The 33-year-old has also struggled to adapt to his new irons following the new groove rules, but is beginning to reap the rewards of hard work and time on the practice range.
“There’s a lot of guys on good form and I might not have been one of them so far so I need to turn that around,” said Stenson, who finished 64th in Qatar last week.
“I had a decent finish in Abu Dhabi but I had a bad week last week. But it feels like the game is coming together. I’ve had a good two days testing new equipment.
“It’s been a good couple of days getting the equipment dialled in so now it’s more (a case of) if I’m dialled in.”
Open Championship runner-up Tom Watson also makes his first appearance at a regular European Tour event since the 1993 German Masters over the Majlis Course.
The 60-year-old has made a flying start to the year with victory in the first event on the Champions Tour in Hawaii after partnering Jack Nicklaus to win a charity skins game, although he has downplayed his chances of success this week.
“I had not won for a couple of years and that’s how I judge my year, if I win a tournament. If I win, it’s been a success,” said the five-time Open winner.
“But I had home advantage at the Open at Turnberry and I’m at a disadvantage this week as I’m not on the right time and I’m playing a brand new course.”
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