Lee Westwood focuses on fitness ahead of DP World Tour Championship

Englishman not thinking of Race to Dubai yet, given his persistent back issues

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 08:  Lee Westwood of England talking remotely to the media during the pro-am event prior to the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates on December 08, 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
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Lee Westwood has played down his chances of winning another order of merit title, suggesting making it to the first tee at the DP World Tour Championship on Thursday would be an achievement given his injury worries.

The Englishman knows the Earth Course about as well as anyone in the field for the season-ending tournament.

He won the inaugural competition in 2009, snatching the Race to Dubai title from Rory McIlroy in the process.

He also has recent success in the UAE to draw on. He won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship back at the start of the year – shortly before the season was reconfigured dramatically because of Covid.

In the intervening time, he has been debilitated by a back injury that has left him at “75 per cent” of his full capacity on arrival in Dubai.

He missed the cut on his last outing two weeks ago, which he put down to having an inhibited follow through due to the injury.

He skipped the following weekend of competition, then had to pull out of Tuesday’s pro-am at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

“It would have been ridiculous to go from not hitting balls for longer than 30 minutes to having a five-hour pro-am walking around and hitting it 70-odd times,” Westwood said.

“I’m going to play nine holes tomorrow, to ease into it gradually. I’ve just been hitting balls now and can feel as though my back is just tightening up slightly.

“I’ve got to keep moving, It’s come from playing a lot in the second part of the season, more than I would normally – due to age, and due to Covid, not being able to see any physios or let anybody do any soft tissue work and mobilisation with me.”

Westwood is fourth in the standings ahead of the finale, behind Patrick Reed, Tommy Fleetwood and Collin Morikawa, and says the lack of expectation on him could work in his favour.

“You could beware the injured golfer,” Westwood said.

“[It is] another day and a half, nearly two days, before I tee off with any kind of purpose. I’ll have a lot better idea by then.

“I’ve hit a few balls and it’s starting to feel a lot better. I didn’t quite have as much apprehension going through the ball, I wasn’t waiting for the pain to kick in as it has been.

“Once I get a bit more faith in going at it full-on, beware the injured golfer. You never know.

“I wouldn’t write myself off just yet. I know this golf course as well as anybody - probably better than anybody, as I’ll have played it more than anybody.

“The lack of a full practice round isn’t going to get in my way. I think the lack of expectation will help if I’m looking at it from that angle.”