DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP)—After a disappointing performance in HongKong last week, Lee Westwood knows that victory in this week’s Dubai WorldChampionship would clinch his second European Tour money title.
The final tournament in the Race to Dubai series starts Thursday with theEnglish golfer seeking to overtake Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and win hisfirst Order of Merit since 2000.
Westwood trails McIlory by $191,000 on the money list going into the $7.5million tournament. Germany’s Martin Kaymer and England’s Ross Fisher are alsoin contention for the money title.
Westwood shot a final-round 74 on Sunday in the Hong Kong Open, his worstrecorded score in 37 rounds stretching back to the U.S. Open at Bethpage inJune.
If he wins in Dubai, he’ll collect a first-place prize of $1.25 million andthe money crown. Westwood would earn an extra $1.5 million from the $7.5 millionbonus pool which will be distributed among the top 15 in the money list.
“I will not be looking at the positions of the other three players in theRace during the tournament,” said Westwood, taking his first look Tuesday atthe Greg Norman -designed Earth Course in a pro-am played as the desert heatreached 35 degrees (95 f). “I have come here to try to win the golf tournamentand if I do everything will take care of itself after that.”
Westwood led the Race to Dubai before Hong Kong, where he finish in a tiefor 54th place and McIlroy moved to the top of the money leaderboard byfinishing second.
Westwood, who finished tied for third at both the British Open and U.S. PGA,blamed his dip in form on the complex greens in Hong Kong.
“When I got to Fanling and took a look at that golf course I thoughtimmediately that it was not the kind of golf course that suits me, so I havejust put that to the back of my mind to try to play this one this week, which Ithink will suit me a bit better,” he said.
“In the grand scheme of things what happened last week is irrelevant,compared to what’s on for this week and the effect that a good performance herein Dubai could have.”
The 24-year-old Kaymer led the Race to Dubai in midsummer after producingback-to-back wins at the lucrative French and Scottish Opens.
But his chances slipped in August when he broke three small bones in hisleft foot in a go-karting accident near his American home in Scottsdale,Arizona.
Kaymer returned to competitive golf in late October and is now in thirdplace on the list, trailing McIlroy by $307,000. He finished tied for second inhis comeback at the Castello Masters and believes his golf is ready to challengethe two players ahead of him.
“My goal for my career has always been to be the best player in Europe andI have a really good chance,” Kaymer said. “My foot is only 80-90 percenthealed by when I got back to playing golf in Castellon and played well there Iknew I still had a chance of winning the Race to Dubai.”
The Dubai World Championship field was originally restricted to the top 60players in the European money list at the end of the Hong Kong Open.
However, since England’s Paul Casey withdrew with a rib injury and AnthonyKim declined to participate citing tiredness at the end of a long season, only58 players will tee up on Thursday.