Westwood looks to overtake McIlroy in final leg of Race to Dubai


2009 European TourDUBAI, United Arab Emirates – After a disappointing performance in Hong Kong last week, Lee Westwood knows that victory in this week’s Dubai World Championship would clinch his second European Tour money title.

The final tournament in the Race to Dubai series starts Thursday with the Englishman seeking to overtake Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and win his first Order of Merit since 2000.

Westwood trails McIlory by $191,000 on the money list going into the $7.5 million tournament. Germany’s Martin Kaymer and England’s Ross Fisher are also in contention for the money title.

Westwood shot a final-round 74 on Sunday in the Hong Kong Open, his worst recorded score in 37 rounds stretching back to the U.S. Open at Bethpage in June.

If he wins in Dubai, he’ll collect a first-place prize of $1.25 million and the money crown. Westwood would earn an extra $1.5 million from the $7.5 million bonus 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 the Race during the tournament,” said Westwood, taking his first look Tuesday at the Greg Norman-designed Earth Course in a pro-am played as the desert heat reached 35 degrees (95 f). “I have come here to try to win the golf tournament and 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 tie for 54th place and McIlroy moved to the top of the money leaderboard by finishing second.

Westwood, who finished tied for third at both the British Open and PGA Championship, 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 thought immediately that it was not the kind of golf course that suits me, so I have just put that to the back of my mind to try to play this one this week, which I think 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 here in Dubai could have.”

The 24-year-old Kaymer led the Race to Dubai in midsummer after producing back-to-back wins at the lucrative French and Scottish Opens.

But his chances slipped in August when he broke three small bones in his left 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 third place on the list, trailing McIlroy by $307,000. He finished tied for second in his comeback at the Castello Masters and believes his golf is ready to challenge the two players ahead of him.

“My goal for my career has always been to be the best player in Europe and I have a really good chance,” Kaymer said. “My foot is only 80-90 percent healed by when I got back to playing golf in Castellon and played well there I knew I still had a chance of winning the Race to Dubai.”

The Dubai World Championship field was originally restricted to the top 60 players 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 Anthony Kim declined to participate citing tiredness at the end of a long season, only 58 players will tee up on Thursday.