European Number One Lee Westwood is eager to pick up where he left off as he begins the defence of his Race to Dubai crown at this week’s Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
The ever consistent Westwood capped off another fine season in November with a brilliant victory at the Dubai World Championship presented by: DP World to land a second Harry Vardon Trophy.
And after enjoying a Christmas break in Barbados, the World Number Four is ready to build on the success of last year, starting at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
“I don’t think I have ever felt more eager for a new season. Although I enjoyed the time off, it was a long six weeks especially with the snow at home, it makes you feel even keener to get out in the sun and start practising again,” said the 36 year old.
“It was a fantastic year last year, but at some point you have to stick it in a box and move on, but still feed from the confidence I gained from last year especially the end of the year and the last tournament.
“I would feel disappointed if I didn’t achieve the same as last year, I think all players want to improve. But winning the money list, there’s not many places to go on from there other than winning it by more.
“But the Majors are where I can improve the most because I haven’t won one and that’s everybody’s goal, it’s the yardstick by which all top professionals are measured.
“Obviously I feel like I should have won The Open last year, but didn’t and I learned a few things from that. So the more often you get into situations like that I feel more comfortable and I’m getting to the stage now where I should be in that position in most Majors.”
Westwood headlines a stellar field for the start of the desert swing, which includes eight of the world’s top 20 and defending champion Paul Casey looking to claim a third eagle trophy in four years.
Last year Casey survived a late wobble to edge out Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer by a single shot, but returns this year still troubled by the rib injury which blighted last season.
Casey leapt to third in the world after winning the BMW PGA Championship and by claiming a maiden US PGA Tour title, but suffered the injury at The Open Championship and was ruled out for the remainder of the season apart from a brief but aborted comeback at the end of the year.
He claimed tenth on his return at the SBS Championship in Hawaii at the start of the year, but heads to Abu Dhabi cautious after a prolonged lay-off.
“I think I’m 95 per cent. There’s no pain in the ribs where I tore the muscles. I don’t quite have the full range of motion that I would like,” said the World Number Eight.
“I’m still trying to get the range of motion. I am unable to swing the golf club like I was this time last year, but it’s still good enough to get it airborne.
“The goal is to stay healthy for 12 months and replicate the golf that I played last year. The golf I played last year was fantastic in the beginning and maybe there is a little bit of unfinished business.”
Geoff Ogilvy, fresh from his win in Hawaii earlier this month, Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and last year’s runner-up and former champion Kaymer also tee off at The National course.