Lee Westwood is concentrating on victory rather than prize money as he seeks to win the UBS Hong Kong Open at his first attempt.
The English ace heads the European Tour’s Race To Dubai with season earnings of €2,404,579 – a lead of €52,320 over Rory McIlroy with just two tournaments remaining.
But Westwood is determined not to let that enter his mind as he makes his Hong Kong debut.
“I’m not thinking about the money list this week, I’m thinking more about the UBS Hong Kong Open as it is a very old and prestigious tournament and one I’ve never won,” he said.
“I’d like to win all the titles I haven’t won before, in fact all the tournaments I play, although it doesn’t work that way. But the goal is to win this week.”
Westwood is one of the title favourites for the US$2.5 million UBS Hong Kong Open, which tees off this Thursday at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling.
As world No.4, he is the highest ranked player to appear in the historic tournament since the Official World Golf Ranking system was introduced in 1986.
Westwood has enjoyed plenty of success in Asia with victories in Japan, Malaysia and Macau and would love to add Hong Kong to his list.
“I’m obviously looking forward to my first appearance here,” he said. “I’ve been to Hong Kong a couple of times before, just flying through, but this will be the first time playing golf here so I’ll be interested tomorrow morning to see what the course is like and get to know it a little bit.
“I had things to do yesterday and today so tomorrow I’ll play the pro-am and get to know the course, although I’ve watched the tournament on TV over the years.
“It’s very tight and tree-lined but it’s the same as most other courses we play in that if you hit it straight, get it in position and hole a few putts, you generally do well.”
Westwood is delighted to be playing some of the best golf of his career and said getting back to No.4 in the world gave him particular pleasure.
A dip in form in 2001-02 saw him slip down the world rankings and it was a long road back to the top for the Ryder Cup star. He capped his resurgence with victory in last month’s Portugal Masters, his 19th European Tour title.
“My previous highest world ranking was fourth in 2000 so to come through a slump and get back to fourth again means a lot, probably more than anything else I’ve done this year,” he said.
“You look at some people who go through a slump and you don’t see them again, they just drift away. So it says something about my mentality.
“It’s a long way back when you’ve been very successful and then can’t do it to the standard you want. It’s a grind to keep going out on the range and not seeing any improvement and gradually working your way back.”
World No.17 McIlroy – runner-up in the UBS Hong Kong Open last year – is also in this week’s line-up together with Asia’s first Major winner, Yang Yong Eun, and world No.13 Ian Poulter, the recent winner of the Singapore Open.
Former British Open champions Mark O’Meara and Ben Curtis are making their debuts in the tournament while last year’s winner, Lin Wen Tang of Chinese Taipei, is back to defend his crown.
The UBS Hong Kong Open – Hong Kong’s oldest professional sporting event, having started in 1959 – is once again co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours.