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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 1 March 2021

Lee Westwood looking for 'fast start' to 2021, starting with successfully defending Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Prize purse of $8 million for January 21-24 tournament at Abu Dhabi Golf Club

Lee Westwood is eyeing a positive start to the year when he begins his title defence of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship next week.

Having won the European Tour opener 12 months ago, the Englishman concluded 2020 with a second-place finish behind compatriot Matthew Fitzpatrick at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in December.

That result ensured a fourth Order of Merit title for the 47-year-old Englishman. He hopes to carry that momentum forward into the 2021 season, starting with a good showing at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club when the four days of action gets underway on January 21.

The tournament, one of four Rolex Series events on the European Tour’s 2021 calendar, kicks off the circuit’s new season.

“The Abu Dhabi event is a great tournament to start the year, with such good conditions and such great place to do good work, and start the year off positively,” Westwood said in a virtual media conference on Wednesday.

“Obviously it’s a big tournament. It’s a Rolex event and a prestigious trial to win and everybody wants to get off to a fast start and it’s a great golf course to start [off] as well.”

Like his fellow professionals, Westwood suffered a disrupted 2020 as golf was severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

After a three-month hiatus following the Qatar Masters in early March, the tour resumed with a much changed schedule in July.

“The year was strange with more stops and starts,” Westwood said. “I played well in the following periods really hitting the ball well and playing well but unfortunately the Covid came along.

“I picked up well after that and obviously finished up the year really well with the second place finish in Dubai. If you look at the results I have always played pretty well in this part of the world.

“The best two results for me in 2020 were in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the very beginning and end of the year.

“So I’ll be hoping for that fast start again with the next three tournaments in the region and then return for the ones when I get back here at the end of the year.”

Westwood attributed part of his success in the Middle East to the quick greens and his ability to drive the ball well.

“Those two things suits me the way I play my golf,” added the 25-time European Tour winner. “In this area to take Abu Dhabi and Dubai together is in the top three and one of my favourites to play.”

Westwood joins a host of prominent names competing in Abu Dhabi, with Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy – the world No 3 and No 4, respectively, and two-time Abu Dhabi champion Tommy Fleetwood and 2019 winner Shane Lowry among those confirmed for the National Course.

To be staged for the 16th time, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will carry a purse of $8 million, an increase of $1m from this year. It opens the European Tour’s Desert Swing, with the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and the Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers running on consecutive weeks after.

Updated: January 13, 2021 03:45 PM

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