x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Fire scare onboard jet for world No 2 Westwood

Lee Westwood was relieved to be able to try a few steady putts after the private jet flying him to the Masters was forced to make an emergency landing.

Justin Rose hits a shot during a practice round at Augusta National yesterday.
Justin Rose hits a shot during a practice round at Augusta National yesterday.

Lee Westwood was relieved to be able to try a few steady putts yesterday after the private jet flying him to the Masters was forced to make an emergency landing.

The world No 2 and Ross Fisher, his Ryder Cup teammate, were approaching Augusta when a fire broke out in the cockpit.

"Do the fire engines normally follow you down the runway?" Westwood said on Twitter. "Only when there's smoke in the cabin I guess!!!


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"They're not here to put my putter out! That's not on fire! Gone a bit quiet on here!!!"

On arrival at Augusta National yesterday Westwood, last year's runner-up, told reporters: "We were a couple of minutes out of the airport. It was a bit scary.

"It never looks good when you can smell smoke and you turn round and see the pilots have put the masks on.

"The smoke was coming from the cockpit and they told us later they couldn't drop our masks because they feed oxygen into the cabin and if there was a fire it would have fanned the flames.

"The plane came down in a bit of a nosedive because you obviously have to get down as quick as you can.

"There had been a small fire somewhere in the instruments and we had the three fire tenders chasing us down the runaway, but I think that's just a precaution."

Back on the ground, Justin Rose will have some good news for Jose Maria Olazabal, Europe's Ryder Cup captain, when they meet at this weekend's tournament.

The 30-year-old played only six European Tour events last season and failed to make Colin Montgomerie's Ryder Cup team, but he says that being part of Olazabal's side next year is "a big goal" of his.

Montgomerie is also at Augusta, in his case to do television commentary rather than play, but Rose is not looking to start a fight.

"I don't blame anybody for not picking me," he said. "It was just a case of 'how did that happen?' and very, very disappointing.

"In a sense I felt it was 'out of sight, out of mind'. I played a lot of good golf, but it didn't count for that much and circumstances went against me.

"I'd have said I was in the team a week or two before qualifying ended, but all credit to Peter Hanson who went to the Czech Open and won and then Edoardo Molinari had to win in Scotland and won.

"Guys who do that deserve their spot on the team, but it makes me even more determined to make the next one. I've got an awful lot of respect for Jose Maria. Along with Seve [Ballesteros] he is the Ryder Cup for me in the last 15-20 years."

Unlike a year ago Rose is back in the world's top 50 and so anticipates playing the minimum 13 events required for European Tour membership this season.

Rose's immediate priority, of course, is to try to land his first major and make it an unprecedented European Tour "slam" of the four biggest titles in the game following Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer last year.

Rose has led at Augusta three times after the first round and once at halfway and his inability to turn any of those opportunities into a victory had a lot to do with how he handled all the time to kill before teeing off again.

"The first time in 2004 I was up at 7am and not playing until 2.40pm or something like that. I was using up nervous energy all day and while my golf was good I think emotionally I was pretty burnt out.

"A lot of it is experience and I didn't have a huge amount of it at the time. Now I have more experience under my belt."

McDowell, the conqueror of Tiger Woods in a play-off in December, will face him again in the first two rounds of the Masters tomorrow and Friday.

McDowell, the current US Open champion, tees off with Woods and Australian Robert Allenby at 10.41am in the first round.

Woods is without a victory since November 2009, but at the Target World Challenge he led by four with a round to go before being caught and then beaten by the Northern Irishman.

McDowell now goes into the opening major of the season as the world No 5 and Woods as the No 7 following Phil Mickelson's win in Houston on Sunday.

Mickelson begins his defence of the title alongside Australia's Geoff Ogilvy and, in keeping with tradition at the event, American amateur champion Peter Uihlein.

Westwood, runner-up to Mickelson a year ago, is with Kaymer, the player who took the world No 1 spot off him in February, and American Matt Kuchar.

Kaymer won golf's last major at the US PGA Championship in August, but has missed the halfway cut in all three Masters he has played.

Luke Donald, Kaymer's tip for the title after he beat him in the final of the World Match Play six weeks ago, plays alongside 1992 winner Fred Couples and Steve Stricker.

Rory McIlroy partners American Rickie Fowler and Australian Jason Day.