Lee Westwood is determined to land his 19th European Tour title after a flawless five-under-par 67 in the first round of the Qatar Masters here left him in a share of the lead alongside the South African Anton Haig.
The current Order of Merit leader admitted he needed to get out of the blocks faster after failing to chase down wire-to-wire winner Martin Kaymer in Abu Dhabi last week. Westwood was faced with the same situation at November's HSBC Champions event in Shanghai, where he overturned a 12-shot deficit in the final round before losing out to Phil Mickelson in a play-off.
But after finishing inside the top 10 in eight of his last nine events, a leaner and fitter Westwood is determined to claim the winner's cheque after making one of his best starts to a year.
"I'm definitely a slow starter," he said. "It's all to do with my fitness. I usually come out a bit lethargic and the muscles are not really working, but I do a lot of gym work with the muscles on the golf swing and feel strong and everything feels right. I started off a bit iffy and missed a few greens at the start but I got it together.
"You are always mindful after a long break, but in the middle of that I finished fourth at Tiger Woods's event and last week I came out and started slowly after feeling a bit rusty but I got it going and got into the tournament and had a chance on Sunday."
Westwood, who started on the back nine, had plenty of chances to lead outright after missing a birdie putt from inside three feet at the 16th. He got up and down for birdie on the 18th and quickly moved to three under with a birdie at the first before missing four good chances over the next fives holes.
The Englishman was finally rewarded with further birdies at the seventh and ninth, where he got up and down from a greenside bunker. Kaymer, playing with Westwood, struggled to a 75 and Westwood commented: "I remember when I won my first tournament, it was nearly impossible to concentrate the following week. I'm not surprised he shot a couple over today."
Former champion Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia were among a seven-strong group two shots off the lead on three under par after testing conditions. "I played the last 10 holes pretty well, but unfortunately I missed a few birdie chances coming in," Garcia said.Reuse content