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Tuesday, 21 February 2012
Lee Westwood  (Getty Images)
Lee Westwood (Getty Images)

Lee Westwood is determined to fly out of the blocks this week at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

The World Number Three is renowned as one of the toughest competitors in the game and has enjoyed success all over the globe in a glittering career.

Yet incredibly, he has never made it past the second round at this week’s event.

Asked to explain his surprisingly poor record, Westwood replied: “I suppose I'm a fairly steady to slow starter to the tournament, I lead my way into it which you can generally do in strokeplay events.

“But in this if you come out slow and shoot one over for the front nine, you could find yourself three or four down and only have four holes to recover and get it back.

“Mentally you have to prepare yourself for that.  You want to come out of the blocks quick and make as many birdies as possible and as few bogeys, so you don't give so many holes away.

Elaborating further on his previous struggles, he added: “I don't really know what's happened.  I can't put my finger on it.  I've played well in individual rounds.  I had bad luck a couple of times.

“I lost to Scott Verplank, it was about the 8th extra hole one year in the second round.  I've lost to Stewart Cink; I think it might have been around this golf course on the 7th extra.  It's not quite happened for me in this tournament.”

Westwood can take confidence from his last outing, which saw him finish in a tie for second at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
The Englishman exhibited superb form from tee to green throughout the week at the Emirates Golf Club, only to be let down by his putter on the final day.

Despite missing out on a 22nd European Tour victory in the last event of the Middle East swing, Westwood is feeling positive, and admits he already has one eye on the first Major Championship of the year.

“All in all, I came out of the three weeks pretty pleased with the way things started and looking to carry on and building up to the Masters,” Westwood explained.

“The whole schedule for the first part of the year is geared up to Augusta, really, being in good shape by then.”

Westwood could have reclaimed the World Number One ranking by the time the Masters Tournament comes around.

Indeed, both he and Rory McIlroy have the opportunity to overhaul Luke Donald this week, should they claim victory and see their rival falter.

Firstly, Westwood must make it past Nicolas Colsaerts, and there is certainly no danger of him underestimating the Belgian.

“I've got a tough first round match, but there are no easy ones,” he said.

“Nicolas is a good player, I played him before.  I know him fairly well, I played him September of last year. He's got a game suited to this course and this format, so it will be a tough match.”

Last year’s winner at Augusta, South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel, is fully focussed on his opening match against Gary Woodland. “I don't even know which bracket I am in,” Schwartzel admitted.

“I don't look at it.  I know I'm playing Gary, who is ranked 25, I think it is. No-one can actually get into who you are going to play next, so what does it matter if I look at who I am going to play because the underdog might win.

“You have got to play the guy you pick up on the day.  That's as simple as it is in this format.  You can sit here and say this guy is going to win, this one is going to win, but there are no guarantees with this one.”

Schwartzel is thrilled to be involved in Arizona and added: “It’s always exciting for me. A lot of different things can happen.

“It's one of those weeks where you could pull off a win by not playing that good.  You could start off badly but get a guy that's playing even worse and then beat him and then eventually find your game and win the golf tournament.  No other week works that way.”

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