sport

Westwood ready to go in Dubai

Lee Westwood starts his 2013 campaign at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Thursday.

Westwood needs only to think back a decade not to be concerned about finding himself down to eighth in the world - his lowest position for over three years.

In May 2003, Westwood had fallen all the way from fourth to 266th and rounds of 81 and 79 at the Portuguese Open begged all sorts of questions about what the future might hold.

The best was still to come, though. Six European Tour wins later, plus one in America and a whole host of near-misses in the majors meant he was the man to end Tiger Woods' five-year reign as world number one.

Less than three months away from his 40th birthday, Westwood hopes there is even better to come - that first major title, of course - and he aims to show this week that his recent move with his family from Worksop to the United States is already paying dividends.

"I played a lot more this winter than I would normally play - there's no rust," he said.

"The reason for moving to Florida was to move on my game a little bit more, to get more games of golf because I wouldn't play normally when I'm at home.

"Last week I had shorts on and played with Luke Donald. There are always games about and that should stand me in good stead for this year.

"I'm feeling good, so it doesn't bother me turning 40.

"My short game is sharper and definitely my putting. The greens out there are so quick I'm actually coming here this week to slower greens.

"Living in England I've always felt like I finished off the year, went home, packed the clubs away and came back out trying to catch everyone else rather than hitting the ground running.

"It just seemed like the right time to move. I played on the PGA Tour a lot last season and really enjoyed it and fancied a new challenge with the family.

"The prospect of being somewhere warm was appealing and the kids were a good age to move, so the family are happy and I can work a lot on my game at the same time."

Westwood led in Dubai after 54 holes last year, but lost by a shot to Rafael Cabrera Bello and in 2010 he was beaten in a play-off by another Spaniard, Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Alvaro Quiros was the champion in between and their compatriot Sergio Garcia is the pre-tournament favourite this time after finishing joint runner-up in Qatar last Saturday.

Winner there after a dramatic eagle on the final hole was England's Chris Wood and he is out to make it a "Desert Double", as is Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who returns to action two weeks after his success in Abu Dhabi.

Wood, who is paired with Westwood in the opening two rounds, said: "Gary Player sent me a tweet. I didn't see it at first, but then my mate texted me to tell me, so I got online and saw it.

"It just said 'Congratulations on your first win there should be many more to come'. He's now following me on Twitter, which is pretty surreal really.

"When I was a junior I used to keep a notebook and had stickers of two players stuck in the back - one was Tiger and one was Garcia, so to beat him by one last week was pretty satisfying."