Lee Westwood confesses to being “a notoriously slow starter”, but insists he is ready to hit top form at this week’s Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy.
The Englishman was 17th on his first start of the season in Abu Dhabi last week, but that was not good enough to prevent Rory McIlroy snatching his World Number Two spot with a runner-up finish.
Westwood did not have a top-ten finish on The European Tour in the first four months of 2011, but in 2009 he finished third at Doha and the 38 year old feels he is ready to go two places better this week.
“It was a decent start last week,” he said. “I had a few issues to negotiate - we've been working a lot on my fitness just recently, and I haven't played a lot coming into Abu Dhabi.
“I didn't hole as many putts, I find the greens there a little difficult to read. I think a lot of people do. I heard a lot of people saying that they were struggling to read them, and I had a bit of a shoulder injury the first couple days, which is gone now. It just needed to loosen up a little bit. 17 was a decent result at the end, I think. I’m looking forward to this week and playing a golf course I've done well at in the past.”
Of the three events in the Middle East swing, Westwood believes the Doha layout provides the toughest test. Especially when the wind gets up.
“Apparently the rough's not as long as it was last year, but the weather man says it's going to be fairly windy,” he added. “And when it's like that around here, it's a really tough test.
“Sometimes you come to a golf course and you remember people shooting low scores - Adam Scott a few years ago shot 62 in the last round to win. And you get it in your head that it's a 20 under par winning golf course.
“But if the wind really pumps this week, it could quite easily be an eight under or nine under par winning golf course. You just have to play every hole and every shot on its merits and not get too preoccupied with the previous years.”
Westwood partners Thomas Björn and Australian Jason Day over the first two rounds, and believes the latter – a runner-up at last year’s Masters Tournament and US Open Championship – could be one of the stars of 2012.
“I was asked at the end of last week who will have a big year, and the only one I picked out was Jason Day,” said Westwood.
“Not because he was the only one who will have a big year, but I think he's a talented player and people probably look over him. He gets overlooked quite a bit, and obviously by saying that I put the curse on him and he missed the cut!”