DUBAI // Lee Westwood is aware that the enhanced status and financial riches that his last triumphant visit to Dubai brought him carries with it an extra degree of responsibility. The new European No 1 went out of his way yesterday, therefore, to issue an unsolicited apology before discussing his chances of adding the Desert Classic to his Dubai World Championship/Race to Dubai double. "My language on the 16th green [in Doha] last week was disgraceful," said Westwood, whose hopes of overcoming Sweden's Robert Karlsson in a thrilling battle for that Qatar Masters title evaporated with an errant drive at that reachable par four. "It was frustration boiling over, a combination of many things but I want to apologise for what I did," said Westwood, who had battled to play himself back into form after missing the cut in Abu Dhabi.
Westwood's Doha anger stemmed from him cracking the face of his driver and the replacement not suiting him. He has been sent four more to choose from and he reflected: "I think we are gradually getting it sorted." He offered by way of mitigation for his tantrum: "Being a strong driver of the ball like I am is a big advantage, so suddenly when one of your strongest weapons is taken out of your bag it can be hard to take." With the Englishman expressing pleasure over the way he is performing with his new irons - he has reverted to his old wedges having ascertained that they conform to the new groove regulations - and that his short game is nicely honed, he vowed to be the man to beat in Dubai for the second time in three months.
"There will be no secret formula for me this week - I'm just going out to enjoy myself like I always do here," he said. "They set up the course great and the greens are in as good a condition as I've ever seen them." He suggested, however, that a repeat of the remarkable 23-under-par aggregate he posted over four days at the Earth Course in November is unlikely, either from himself or his principal rivals for the 300,000 (Dh1.5m) first prize. "There's quite a bit of rough out there," added Westwood who launches his challenge for a 32nd career title alongside fellow Englishman Oliver Wilson and Sweden's Henrik Stenson. "You can't afford to miss the fairways, so the driver will play a big part again." firstname.lastname@example.org