Westwood seizes pole position
Lee Westwood made a superb start to the Dubai World Championship but Rory McIlroy is hanging tough.
Lee Westwood gave playing partner Rory McIlroy something to think about with a sparkling six-under-par 66 on day one of the Dubai World Championship.
It gave the world number five a share of second place, only one shot behind Australian Robert Allenby, and put him back in position to capture a second European Tour Order of Merit title.
Not that McIlroy had a bad day. His 68 leaves him in a tie for fifth but, if those positions were to stay the same, Westwood will be crowned champion on Sunday.
McIlroy’s runner-up finish in Hong Kong last Sunday had taken him into a £114,829 lead heading into the final event but it looks set to go right to the wire now.
And it might yet be that one putt at the end of the final round will be worth more than £1.6million.
Westwood was only level par after six holes but picked up seven birdies and only one bogey over the rest of the round.
As for Martin Kaymer and Ross Fisher, the other two players in with a chance of a £1.6million tournament and bonus-pool jackpot on Sunday, they stood one under and level par respectively – Fisher after having the only double-bogey six of the day on the opening hole.
Allenby’s 65 on the new Earth course designed by his compatriot Greg Norman put him one in front of Westwood, fellow Englishman Chris Wood and Colombian Camilo Villegas, while Padraig Harrington was with McIlroy in the group two further back.
Wood made a sparkling return after tearing ankle ligaments falling down some steps in Spain a month ago.
The 21-year-old, third at the Open in July, turned in 34 and then covered the “Golden Mile” closing four-hole stretch with four successive birdies.
And that after his ankle began to hurt again on the 15th tee.
Wood said: “That’s the first time I’ve played 18 holes since the injury. I was on crutches for two and a half weeks but it’s recovered well.
“The ankle started aching on the 15th tee and I thought, ‘I’ll take one under for the closing stretch’, but I managed to birdie every one.”
Designer Greg Norman said he expected the “Golden Mile” to be: “One of the most challenging and exciting miles of golf in terms of risk and reward.”
Wood certainly got the reward, pitching to six feet on the 15th, making eight-footers on the next two and then hitting his approach to six feet at the 620-yard last.
McIlroy will take the title regardless of how he plays if Westwood finishes outside the top seven, Kaymer the top four and Fisher the top two.
But, with a first prize of nearly £745,000, McIlroy, Westwood and Kaymer all went into the event knowing victory would also bring them the added bonus of nearly £900,000.
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