ABU DHABI // Lee Westwood went from UAE hero to zero in the space of two months. The man who ruled the Earth Course after completing a season-ending Dubai World Championship and Race to Dubai double suffered the ignominy of failing to beat the halfway cut in Abu Dhabi yesterday. It was an enormous embarrassment for the Englishman considering the brilliant form he had displayed at Jumeirah Golf Estates to thrash the best of what the European Tour had to offer in November.
Four shots off the pace when he began his second round, he posted a horrendous 78 and was forced to pack his bags before the serious business starts today. Westwood was indignant at the suggestion that he was getting a reality check after his record US$2.75m (Dh10.1m) payday. "That's a stupid question," he retorted. "I know what the game of golf can do to you. I would almost take offence at you asking me that."
He put his problems down to a change of clubs to satisfy the new groove regulations coming at a time when he had not played for six weeks. "I don't know if they have put in the wrong shafts, or whatever. They just don't feel right," he complained. "It just wasn't sharp. I got away with murder on the first day, but not this time." At one stage it looked like Westwood would take his two illustrious playing partners Paul Casey and Geoff Ogilvy through the exit door with him. Casey was not safe until he rolled in a testing putt for a two at the short 15th while Ogilvy, a former US Open champion, was out of the tournament before birdies at the last two holes enabled him to fight another day.
Colin Montgomerie, Europe's Ryder Cup captain, battled hard to stay alive, following his 73 of the opening day with a 68 to go through with a shot to spare but two other European stalwarts - Henrik Stenson and Darren Clarke - cut it fine with late bogeys leaving them just on the right side of the dividing line at two-under. Ahmed al Musharrekha, the Emirati amateur who received an invitation to play, put up a gallant fight to post a one-under par 71 yesterday, but his 75 on Thursday meant he was two strokes away from a third round place.
Richard Sheridan, the UAE-based professional who earned a place in the elite draw through winning the local qualifying competition, finished one shot better than al Musharrekha on three-over par. @Email:email@example.com