Reigning Race to Dubai Champion Lee Westwood begins 2021 with the defence of his Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship title this week, and the 47-year-old feels as ready as ever for the challenge ahead in the opening Rolex Series event of the season.
"It's always a confidence booster when you come back to somewhere where you've won, you're familiar with and feel like you can score well. Other than the win last year, I've had some good performances here. It's a golf course that sets up well for me.
"I feel good. I came out early to the Middle East to do some pre-season. Can't do anything at home at the moment because the golf courses are closed, and the weather is no good."
That win helped propel Westwood to history, kick-starting a remarkable season which culminated in him becoming the oldest player to be crowned European Tour Number One, at the conclusion of the Race to Dubai almost exactly one month ago. Unsurprisingly, the ten-time Ryder Cup player is brimming with confidence on his return to the Middle East.
"My game feels in good shape, I don't feel like I've had much of an off-season. The year finished so late last year and we've started early this year. I feel in good shape and driving the ball well and putting feels good. I was saying to Helen this morning that I've done everything, I'm getting bored and I wish it was Thursday."
The Englishman kicked off his historic 2020 campaign with the second Rolex Series victory of his career, courtesy of a two-stroke triumph over Matt Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood and Victor Perez at Abu Dhabi Golf Club."
The man Westwood dethroned last year, winner of the 2019 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Shane Lowry, is also returning with high hopes. The reigning Open Champion is targeting a return to his best form as the European Points List re-starts in the race for qualification to Padraig Harrington's 2021 European Ryder Cup team.
“I think if I get another win on the board and head to America in September and win the Ryder Cup that's my goal for the year, to focus on myself and try and get another win on the board soon enough and then hopefully go to Whistling Straits in September and bring back the Ryder Cup to Europe. Obviously I want to make the team but I also want to go out there and win as well, stamp my name on that part of golf," said Lowry.
“Obviously I've had some success here in the past, in 2019. I didn't play here for quite a few years so it was nice to come back that year and then win in my first trip back for a while. I like the tournament and I like the place but I haven't played a tournament in definitely eight weeks, maybe more.
“The fact that we're all competing, and we're here in Abu Dhabi this year with the prize fund gone up a million dollars. It's incredible what both Tours have done, the European Tour and the PGA Tour, and it's great to be back playing and doing our jobs, and it has been for around six months now. I'd be fairly optimistic in thinking everything will go ahead, it's just how much of a level of normality will it be, who knows.”