x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Westwood and Kaymer hope for Woods comeback

Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer are both relishing being drawn in the same group as Tiger Woods for the opening two rounds of the Dubai Desert Classic.

Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood before the start of Challenge Match at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai.
Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood before the start of Challenge Match at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai.

DUBAI // Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, who have overtaken Tiger Woods in the world rankings, will be able to keep a close eye on the American this week.

In an imaginative move by organisers of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the leading trio have been bracketed together in the draw for the first two rounds of the tournament at the Emirates Golf Club's Majlis course.

Westwood, who knocked Woods from the No 1 ranking at the end of last season, welcomed the creation of the match-up for a 12.20pm tee-off tomorrow and an 8am resumption on Friday morning.

"That's what people like to see," he said. "It happens in the United States but I don't recall it ever occurring like this on the European Tour.

"In these times where competition to attract sponsors is fierce we want to make our game as glitzy as possible. This is the ideal way to do that - especially if we all perform to our highest levels."

Kaymer's victory in the Abu Dhabi tournament last month enabled him to climb to No 2 in the rankings, bumping Woods to No 3. The 26-year-old German said he was enthusiastic about playing with Woods for the first time - and he hopes it will last more than two rounds.

"It would be nice to go head-to-head with him again on Sunday. I would love to see that happen," he said, adding that he was pulling for Woods to find his best form.

"I want him to come back as strong as ever, even though that might make things harder for me," Kaymer said. "He has done so much for golf around the world in the last 15 years and without him we would not be enjoying the interest in the game that we have now.

"So, yes, golf needs Tiger."

Westwood, the Englishman who ended the American's five-year reign as No 1 despite not winning a major championship, agreed.

"If anybody takes their sport to another level, as Tiger did, then it makes everybody else up their game which is good for the golfers, the sport itself and the people who watch," he said.

"We know that Tiger has not played at his best recently for various reasons but the one thing that you do know in any sport is that form may be temporary but class is permanent.

"Sometimes you have to take two steps forward and one backwards and Tiger will be going through that sort of process now."

Westwood, who was yesterday made a lifetime member of the European Tour, has not reproduced his 2010 form in the early weeks of the season. He endured a rare missed cut in Doha last week.

The lingering effects of a calf muscle problem that kept him sidelined for much of last year is a factor in his sluggish start.

"The injury has restricted my time on the range," he said. "I have just not been able to put my weight on the leg for long practice sessions. But I can now hit balls for three to four hours at a time which is better. It's still not quite right but it's good enough."

Westwood said the next episode in the battle for the No 1 ranking is irrelevant, at least as far as he is concerned.

"I have come here to try to win the tournament. That way the ranking takes care of itself," he said.

Kaymer could claim the top spot if he wins the tournament and Westwood fails to finish second, or if Kaymer finishes second and Westwood is outside the top 10.

Conversely, Woods could reclaim the No 2 spot if he wins and Kaymer finishes outside the top five.

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