Westwood keeps his focus

Race to Dubai champion keen for more of the same at National Course in Abu Dhabi as the European No 1 confirms Abu Dhabi date.

Westwood acknowledges the 18th hole gallery after winning the Dubai World Championship.
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ABU DHABI // Lee Westwood, who produced what was widely regarded as the best golf of his career to win the Dubai World Championship in dominant fashion a week ago, is planning to do the same in Abu Dhabi next month. The Englishman, who was confirmed as Europe's leading golfer after his six-stroke triumph on the Earth Course, yesterday confirmed the addition of his name to what is developing into a strong line-up for the fifth Abu Dhabi Championship at the National Course from January 21-24.

"For me, it's important that I maintain this streak, so I need to continue working hard throughout the winter and come back to Abu Dhabi fresh and ready to launch my 2010 season on a high," said Westwood, who earned US$2.75m (Dh10.1m) for his Dubai heroics. "I'm looking forward to getting out there and rekindling some of the battles I've been fighting all this season. "Abu Dhabi is going to be a tough field and I know a lot of the guys who gave me a run in Dubai will be back and looking for revenge.

"But I know I've got what it takes to be right up there and the National Course suits my game. I'm feeling optimistic about what I need to do to take honours so it is just about getting in the right frame of mind. "Plus it will be nice to get back out into the sunshine and sample some of that famed Abu Dhabi hospitality after a stressful 2009 season." Westwood, 36, who won his first of his 31 professional titles in 1996 and is now up to fourth in the world rankings following his successful 2009 campaign, has been helped this year by extra work in the gym.

"I have been putting in the training, both for my game and my fitness, which has made a massive difference," he said. He will be in good company in Abu Dhabi. His fellow Englishman Paul Casey, the world No 6 and a two-time winner of the tournament, is expecting to be fit to defend his trophy after a rib injury, while Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia are others from the world's top 10 to book a starting place.

Several more of the game's elite are expected to follow suit in the next few weeks to the delight of the organisers. The qualifying event for UAE-based professionals took place over the championship course yesterday and a coveted place in the European Tour event went to Richard Sheridan, the senior teaching professional at the Al Badia club in Dubai. Sheridan, 32, overcame Simon Payne, of Tower Links, at the second extra hole after both had gone round the National Course in level par 72.

Tickets for the four-day event are on sale at a daily rate of Dhs125 or Dhs 400 for the entire tournament. @Email:wjohnson@thenational.ae