Lee Westwood’s hot streak continued with an opening five under par 67 to share the early first round lead with South African Anton Haig in the Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy.
Westwood, who took over pole position on The European Tour Order of Merit with last week’s share of second place in the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, made five birdies in a flawless display at Doha Golf Club.
Haig, who burst onto the scene with his victory in the Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand last year as an Affiliate Member, set the early pace and reached six under par before three putting the ninth, his final hole, from 70 feet.
But he was quickly chased down by Westwood, who has enjoyed ten top tens in his last 11 events.
“My confidence is good obviously,” said Westwood. “ I think ten top tens in the last 11 events, so, can't help but be confident. You're always a bit mindful when you have a long break, but in the middle of that long break, I finished fourth in Tiger's event and last week came out and started slowly, felt a little rusty especially on the greens but got it going on Saturday and got into the tournament and had a chance on Sunday.”
Joint second in the HSBC Champions, where he lost out in a play-off to Phil Mickelson, and the same finishing position last week have given him a flying start to his 2008 campaign.
“I'm usually a slow starter,” admitted Westwood. “It's all to do with my fitness. I usually come out a bit lethargic and the muscles not really working, but I do a lot in the gym with the muscles on the golf swing and feel very strong and everything feels all right.”
Haig has struggled to find the form which brought him his maiden victory last season but has come out this year with a fresh approach and with his coach, Jamie Cough, accompanying him.
“It's all about confidence this, game, 90 per cent in the head, that's what I was told, and I agree with that,” he commented. “It's a tough struggle out there, especially with the conditions like they are with the wind and there are a lot of good players out there. I've got a long way to go still but I am just really looking forward to playing well again.”
Swede Henrik Stenson, the 2006 champion at Doha GC, compatriot Johan Edfors, England’s Paul Broadhurst and Germany’s Marcel Siem all shot opening 69s to lie two shots off the early lead.