Lee Westwood says his recent move to Florida has paid instant dividends as he embarks on his first start of the year at the Dubai Desert Classic.
The World No.8, in his lowest ranking position since November 2009, has an enviable record at the Emirates Golf Club with three runner-up finishes and seven top-tens.
Away from the snow and out in the sun to hone his short game during the off-season, the 39-year-old appears ready to break his duck in Dubai after citing he’s better prepared for 2013 than any other season.
“I played a lot more this winter than I would normally play,” said Westwood. “There’s no rust. The main reason for moving to Florida was to get more games of golf because I wouldn't play normally when I'm at home because of the weather.
“Last week I had shorts on and was out playing with Luke Donald. Living in England I’ve always finished the year, gone home, packed the clubs away and come back out trying to catch everyone else.
“My short game is sharper from being out there, especially my putting.
“This tournament is certainly one I would like to win. I’ve been back here every year apart from one since 1994 and I have a good record.
“So hopefully this week I'll play as well as I've played the last few years and have a chance again and hopefully finish it off. I feel like I've got a chance come Sunday.”
Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello is in the field to defend the title he won 12 months ago, as is the European Tour’s latest champion Chris Wood, who won the Qatar Masters in spectacular style last week with an eagle at the 72nd hole.
But perhaps the man everyone has to beat this week is a re-energised Sergio Garcia, who finished joint runner-up with George Coetzee last week. The star-studded field also comprises in-form duo Jamie Donaldson and Thorbjorn Olesen, as well as resurgent former Ryder Cup players Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey.
Dubai Desert Classic
Emirates Golf Club, Majlis Course, Dubai
Thursday January 31 to Sunday February 3
7,301 yards; Par 72
$1,588,310 (winner: €309,232)
Rafa Cabrera-Bello (-18)
Most wins: 3 (Ernie Els 1994, 2002, 2005)
Lowest score: -22 (Thomas Bjorn 2001)
Did you know?
It has been part of the European Tour schedule since its inauguration in 1989, and was the first European Tour event to be staged in the Middle East.
It’s hard to look past red-hot favourite Garcia at 6/1. The Spaniard is striking the ball better than ever right now and finally appears confident with the putter. He’s also finished first and second in his last two starts. Westwood is speaking a good game and represents value at 8/1, as do in-form Olesen (20/1), defending champion Cabrera-Bello (25/1) and last week's winner Wood (30/1). Visit 888sport.com for more prices.
Thursday: Sky Sports 1 from 6am
Friday: Sky Sports 2 from 6am
Saturday: Sky Sports 3 from 9am
Sunday: Sky Sports 3 from 8am
Who's your money on in the desert? Tweet us your predictions @Golfmagic.