Westwood's eyes fixed on big prize
UNDER instructions from Billy Foster, his caddie, Lee Westwood is trying something completely different this week – and so far it is certainly working.
Risky or not, Westwood is not looking at leaderboards as he plays the Dubai World Championship, but at halfway he is two in front and on course for a 1.6million jackpot tomorrow.
Up for grabs is not only one of the richest tournaments in European Tour history, but also the Order of Merit crown he last wore nine years ago. Win the event and he wins that, too.
In 2000, he was the young pretender who dethroned Colin Montgomerie after the Scot's seven successive years at the top. Now he is the vastly experienced professional trying to knock 20-year-old stablemate Rory McIlroy off top spot in the last week of the year-long marathon. But, despite having won 30 times since leaving the amateur ranks, he agreed to go along with what Foster suggested. "Billy has kind of banned me from it this week," said Westwood after a 69 took him to nine-under-par and left him the man to catch after an amazing day of twists and turn. "I have no interest in anybody else's game. I've never done it before and it will be hard, but I will look on Sunday night."
One suspects, though, that he and Foster might just bring that forward if the situation demands it late in the final round.
"Looking at the board (he allows himself to do that once off the course) there's probably nobody more experienced than the pair of us, so hopefully that will have a massive effect. He's had a few really good bits of advice – and if it turns out well I'll tell you them all on Sunday evening."
Australian Robert Allenby led overnight, but he bogeyed two of the first four. In contrast, Westwood birdied the first two and led by two, but then McIlroy – joint-fifth overnight, three behind Allenby – moved two in front with a dazzling front nine 31 containing a tap-in eagle on the 572-yard seventh and three birdies. Coming home, though, the Northern Ireland youngster three-putted the 14th and 15th for bogeys, missing from three feet each time.
Out in front as a result of that was Padraig Harrington, but he put two balls in the water for a closing double-bogey 7.
So, with Westwood sinking a 20-foot birdie putt there minutes later, the chasing pack will have their eyes on him when play resumes at the new Greg Norman-designed Earth course.
McIlroy, Harrington and Allenby share second place with England's Ross McGowan, South African Louis Oosthuizen and Colombian Camilo Villegas.
Harrington's last-hole drama could have done even more damage to his hopes of a first Tour win of the year but he remembered just in time to go and retrieve his ball in the hazard by the green. It could have been a two-shot penalty otherwise – "it's probably the most baffling rule in golf," he said – before confessing that he did not even know the water was there.
"I'm glad it wasn't Sunday afternoon when I did it," stated the Dubliner. "Much better on a Friday. It's a new course and we don't fully know all the intricacies. I would have taken the score going out, so I'm quite happy."
McIlroy was trying not to dwell on his two missed short putts, although at 123rd on the putting statistics for the season he knows it is area that still requires work. "I got off to the perfect start and I have to think I'm still in a good position," said the player trying to become the youngest Order of Merit winner since Seve Ballesteros in 1976.
German Martin Kaymer who needs a top-four finish, and England's Ross Fisher, who needs to be in the first two, can't be ruled out of the Race to Dubai yet, but at two-under and level-par they lie 24th and 39th. Scotland's David Drysdale, meanwhile, hit a one-over-par 73 to leave him ten shots behind Westwood.
(Gbr & Irl unless stated, par 72):
135 Lee Westwood 66 69
137 Rory McIlroy 68 69, Robert Allenby (Aus) 65 72, Camilo Villegas (Col) 66 71, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 71 66, Padraig Harrington 68 69, Ross McGowan 71 66
138 Thomas Aiken (Rsa) 68 70, Sergio Garcia (Spa) 71 67, Wen-chong Liang (Chn) 68 70, Rafael Cabrera Bello (Spa) 71 67
139 Alexander Noren (Swe) 70 69, Geoff Ogilvy (Aus) 70 69, Johan Edfors (Swe) 69 70
140 Francesco Molinari (Ita) 72 68, Retief Goosen (Rsa) 69 71, Gareth Maybin 71 69, Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spa) 72 68, Scott Strange (Aus) 73 67
Other score: 145 David Drysdale 72, 73
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