Westwood ready to go one better

Having narrowly missed out last year, Lee Westwood only has one goal at the WGC-HSBC Champions this week.

Having narrowly missed out to Francesco Molinari by one shot last year, Lee Westwood only has one goal at the WGC-HSBC Champions this week.

The Shanghai event provides an opportunity for the English World No 2 to not only improve on his second place finish 12 months ago, but hopefully put more pressure on Luke Donald, who won’t be participating this week, at the top of the rankings.

“I became the world number one at this time last year and I played like the world number one in the tournament. Unfortunately Francesco played a little bit better,” said Westwood.

“I was a bit unlucky on the last hole last year. My five-iron, just crawled to the top of that slope. If it had not and stopped a foot short, the ball probably would have rolled back four or five feet and I would have had a realistic chance to tie.”

Westwood has been playing in Asia for the last few weeks already, and he has some good results to show for it – he finished tied for sixth at last week’s lucrative Shanghai Masters and won the seven-day, seven-city Shui On Land China Golf Challenge the week before, though that constituted only one round of golf against only three other competitors.

He’s tasted other, more conventional victories in Asia already this year, however, winning the Indonesia Masters and the Ballantine’s Championship in South Korea.

“Those wins in Asia gave my confidence a real boost,” he said. “And I still have hopes of gaining the top spot. If I play well in these last two, who knows what can happen.”

Westwood realises that he will have to win this week and come out on top at the European Tour’s season-ending Dubai World Championship on December 8 in order to have any chance of catching his countryman Donald at the top of the rankings.

“I’ve always enjoyed playing in Asia, I’ve played well here. It makes a lot of sense to keep coming back. If you come somewhere and you play well, then it builds confidence.”

Having lost the No 1 spot to Donald earlier in the year, Westwood acknowledges that his recent play has not been of the same quality as the play that saw him rise to the top.

“I would like to get back to No.1 in the world,” he said. “I just haven’t really quite played well enough.”

His time in Asia might turn that around, however, and he praised the conditions of the golf courses he has been competing on, adding that the slew of high-quality tournaments taking place in the East bodes well for the growth of the game.

“You get people involved and you get world-class players going out around the world and showing how good they are. That’s the way that anything spreads.”