DUBAI // Lee Westwood produced the best round of the week so far yesterday - a brilliant, bogey-free 65 - to raise hopes of completing a Dubai double. The Englishman followed up his November Earth Course masterclass, which earned him Dubai World Championship glory and the season-long Race to Dubai honours, with his most impressive performance to date on the Majlis Course to bring a first Dubai Desert Classic firmly into view.
Westwood, who propelled himself from his second round starting position of level-par to seven-under, goes into today's third round with only Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee ahead of him. Jaidee, Asia's record title-holder, added an unblemished 66 to his opening round of 70 to take pole position in a top-class line-up. Feeling his way back to vintage form after a career-threatening back injury, Jaidee, 41, was delighted with the consistency and solidity that eventually saw him go clear of a bunched pack with his sixth birdie at the 17th.
The Asian No 1 is looking forward to locking horns with the European No 1 in the final pairing this afternoon. A buoyant Westwood is also relishing the challenge after gradually working his way back to his best during the three-week Desert Swing. Annoyed by a rare missed cut in Abu Dhabi, he was in contention to win the Qatar Masters last weekend and now he is going to take some stopping at the Emirates Golf Club.
"This is my lowest round since I first came here in 1994 so I'm very happy," he said. "I think those of us who had a morning/afternoon draw over the first two days have had the worst of the conditions so to come out on the right end of that gives you a massive confidence boost for the final two rounds." Westwood, who confesses to being a slow starter to campaigns, is not getting ahead of himself bearing in mind that a cluster of famous names are surrounding his on the leaderboard, including Rory McIlroy, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Charl Schwartzel.
"Anything can happen over the next couple of days," he said. "This is a quality field and it is by no means a pushover to win this event - something I've proven in the past because I've never won it before." Level with Westwood and a shot behind Jaidee are the experienced Jimenez and the 225th-ranked Welshman Stephen Dodd. @Email:email@example.com