Dubai: World number seven Lee Westwood is hoping his move to America has helped banish his post-winter gremlin ahead of this Thursday’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club.
Having finished runner-up at this event three times in 18 appearances, the 39-year-old Englishman has lived to regret not adding The Coffee Jug to his list of 39 professional wins since starting out in 1993.
Westwood missed out by a stroke to Rafael Cabrero-Bello last year, and lost the playoff to Miguel Angel Jimenez in 2010. He also fell four shots short of David Howell in 1999.
But 2013 could be different due to his off-season preparation, after he has swapped the snow of his native Worksop in Nottinghamshire with the sunshine of Palm Beach, in South Florida.
“Living in England, I used to put my clubs away for the winter and come back rusty,” said Westwood, who recorded ten top tens and two wins in 25 appearances on the US, European and Asian Tours, last season.
“Part of the reason for moving to Florida was to fit a few more games in during my time off. There was like a foot of snow in Worksop last week, but I had my shorts on playing with Luke Donald – that should stand me in good stead this year.”
Westwood added: “My short game has improved. The greens are slower here than the ones I’ve been practising on [in Florida]. And that was part of the reason for moving to the US, so I wouldn’t have to adapt so much to conditions.
“I used to be playing catch up but now I’ve come out running – I’m certainly not as rusty as I usually am.”
Of the Dubai Desert Classic, where he has continually seen his chances go amiss, Westwood said: “This is certainly one I’d like to win having been here every year since 1994 [only missing 2002 due to scheduling]. I hope to play as well as I have done over the last couple of years and take that chance again, but hopefully finish it off this time.”
Westwood added: “I’ve played a lot more winter golf than I usually would and this is a place I really love playing – I’ve had good chances here the last few years and it’s nice to be back.
“I lost to Miguel a couple of years back in a play-off that I felt I really should have won, then last year I putted awful over the last five holes and felt like I let a couple slip there. So, hopefully I wont make the same mistake again this year.
“You can’t predict who is going to win, but if I play well I feel like we’ve got a chance come Sunday.”
He added of the par 72, 7344 yard Majlis Course, that has so far denied him: “It’s really fair. If you stick to the fairways and take your birdie opportunities you can shoot low.
“But if you miss fairways and don’t hit so well it becomes a tricky course fast, it rewards good solid play and that’s probably why we’ve had such good winners around here.”