x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Westwood vows to come out fighting

The Race to Dubai champion Lee Westwood has pledged to play aggressively in his pursuit of further glory.

Lee Westwood had good reason to smile.
Lee Westwood had good reason to smile.

DUBAI // The Race to Dubai champion Lee Westwood has pledged to play aggressively in his pursuit of further glory in the emirate as the Dubai Desert Classic reaches its climax this afternoon. The Englishman played a splendid penultimate round yesterday, dropping just one stroke to card out on four-under par-68 and claim a share of the leaderboard summit alongside Asian No 1 Thongchai Jaidee and Spaniards Miguel Angel Jimenez and Alvaro Quiros on 11-under.

Westwood, the world No 4, claimed the European Tour's rebranded Order or Merit in Nov-ember after shooting a marvellous 64 at the neighbouring Earth Course to win the Dubai World Championship. And he said he will approach the Majlis Course today with the same mindset. "There are so many people within three or four shots of the lead, so I'll play aggressively - conservatively aggressively," said the 36-year-old.

"I won't do anything stupid, but I'll shoot at the flags that need to be shot at. "Any time I'm in contention, that gets me buzzing and excited. I'm confident that if I keep playing the way I am right now and get off to a quick start, I'm going to have a chance coming down the last nine holes. "I'm just going to try and do what I did at the Dubai World Championship: go out and shoot the lowest score of the day.

"It looks like I am in the last group tied for the lead; if I shoot the lowest round of the day, I win. Simple as that". At Earth, Westwood made a pact with his caddie Billy Foster that he would not concentrate on the leaderboard while playing, and the tactic worked as the 20-time European Tour title-winner waltzed home on the Greg Norman designed course with a six-stroke lead. This time, however, he said he is happy to have a glance, so long as he remains top.

"Every now and again I will," he said. "But I won't be looking at what anybody else is doing. I'm just going to be looking at the position I am in. "If it says 'Westwood' at the top, I'll be happy. I won't look any further down." Westwood's closest challenger in the Race to Dubai last season was the Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy and the 20-year-old is just two strokes off the lead as he chases a historic double.

McIlroy got off to a poor start yesterday, bogeying the first on his way to carding three-under par- 69 and he knows a start strong is essential today if he is to etch his name in the record books. Never in the 21-year history of the Classic has a golfer successfully defended his title. "I'm still in with a great chance," he said. "If I can get a couple of early birdies; maybe a couple-under through five, I'll be in with a shout, so hopefully I can get off to a start like that. My figures in the last round have been pretty good so I'm just looking for a fast start and try and keep it going from there."

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae