x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Lee Westwood's warm disposition ahead of Dubai Desert Classic

The three-time Dubai runner-up has rerouted with a move westward but the clock is ticking for the 40 year old.

Lee Westwood says his short game has been sharper than before. Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images
Lee Westwood says his short game has been sharper than before. Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images

Though Lee Westwood has posted three runner-up finishes at Emirates Golf Club and has played the event 18 times in his career, we will set aside the rather trite golf axiom about horses for courses.

Especially since the world No 8 owns an actual thoroughbred, a five year old, running on a true track, that is entered in a race at Meydan Racecourse tomorrow.

"We're of the belief that the trainer has him properly prepared," the sports agent Chubby Chandler said.

He meant the horse, though he could easily have been alluding to Westwood, the best player in his management stable, if you will.

At a clear transition point and at an age when many players are settling into a comfortable routine, Westwood has gone middle-aged crazy, moving his family to South Florida to take on the US PGA Tour with a vengeance. Talk about changing mounts in midstream - or, in this case, the Atlantic Ocean.

It represents something of a calculated risk. After joining the US tour full time last season, Westwood enjoyed playing in the States so much, he decided to put his house in England on the market, relocate completely and to place an emphasis on the PGA Tour while retaining membership on both circuits.

His children, aged 11 and eight, are already enrolled in school and his new abode, at Old Palm Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, will be ready in two weeks.

Westwood has already begun mixing in like a natural after moving into a temporary rental property in mid-December.

He showed up yesterday at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic looking fit and tanned, which would not be the case if he had stayed at the homestead in Worksop, England, where there has been a foot of snow on the ground. He has put the 50-acre estate on the market.

"It's easy to throw on your shorts and go hit balls," Westwood said.

He has done plenty of it, too.

He played last week at Old Palm with countryman Luke Donald, another former world No 1 who has a home in the area, and feels as though the extra time afforded by the warm weather climate will ease the transition after years as a European Tour star. While this week marks his 2013 opener, his winter in Florida already has him far closer to fighting trim.

"Short game is sharper and definitely my putting [is better]," Westwood said.

That will be a welcome development hereabout. Westwood has thrice finished second at the Majlis course - including two of the past three years - and it has been his short game that has most often failed him.

With a chance to force a play-off on the 72nd hole last year, he mishit a chip shot and missed a 20-footer for a birdie that would have forced extra holes. In 2010, he lost in sudden death, missing three putts from 15 feet or closer on the three play-off holes.

He was bluntly asked if things would be different this time around.

"Well, I hope it's not too different," he said, laughing. "I like the way I have played here."

The point was, it would be nice to finish one slot higher. "I like the way you're thinking," he said.

This time around, the whole mindset has changed. Westwood has a different caddie and a new swing guru. Westwood has worked with numerous coaches over the years, including big names such as Pete Cowen and David Leadbetter. You have probably heard of the latest guy, too.

"It's me," he said. "Hey, I have been taking lessons for 30 years."

Which brings us to the next part of his American migration. Westwood, debatably the best player in the world never to have won a major championship, turns 40 in April. The meter is running, which must have factored into the decision, if merely on a subconscious level.

"It just seemed like the right time," Westwood said. "I played on the PGA Tour a lot last season, really enjoyed it and fancied a new challenge with the family. The prospect of being somewhere warm was appealing and the kids were a good age to move.

"So, the family are happy and I can work a lot on my game at the same time."

With 22 European Tour victories, plus two more in the States and numerous others globally, Westwood seemingly has the legs to run just about anywhere. As for his horse, we will find out tomorrow.

The steed certainly fits Westwood's career theme of the moment.

Its name? Rerouted.


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