Lee Westwood set a new course record of 64 then saw it equalled by Jose Coceres of Argentina within a matter of minutes in the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic at Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club.
Westwood, second behind stablemate David Howell last year, carded halves of 31 and 33 to intimate his intentions to match last week’s victory by his close friend, Darren Clarke. While the Irishman finished with a one under par 71, Westwood and Coceres took command at the top of the leaderboard.
The English Ryder Cup player, now working on a new nutrition programme with his sponsors, Centrum, found plenty of energy in hot conditions to conjure up six birdies and an eagle – despite admitting that he can no longer see beyond 180 yards.
He is now considering laser surgery treatment which has worked for Tiger Woods and Laura Davies. He said: “I haven’t got very good eyes. I have tried playing in glasses but the ground seems to come closer to me. Contact lenses are too fiddly so I am going the week after the Masters to have an analysis with a view to laser treatment. Hopefully it will have the same effect as it had on Tiger and Laura.”
Coceres , meanwhile, had a symmetrical round of 32-32 with four birdies in each half. It was his best round since shooting the same score in the second round of the Volvo Masters at Montecastillo last October.
The Argentinian said: “I am pleased because this is my first tournament of 2000. I didn’t play in Australia because it was so far away and I missed South Africa because of the 49 per cent tax! Today I played well.”
Three players – Open champion Paul Lawrie, Ian Garbutt and Jose Rivero – shot 66 to share third place, two behind the first round leader.
Lawrie, employing new caddie Martin Gray for this week at least, admitted he played “beautifully” and is poised to make his move along with playing partner, Thomas Bjorn, who fired a five under par 67. However the third member of that group, David Howell, could only manage a two over par 74 in his defence of the title.