Date: January 25, 2008

Scott just off the pace

Lee Westwood and Anton Haig lead the way at the Qatar Masters but Australian Adam Scott remains in the hunt, just two strokes adrift of the leaders. Englishman Westwood, however, is determined to land his 19th European Tour title after a flawless five-under-par 67 that put him in a share of the lead alongside South African Haig. The current Order of Merit leader admitted he needed to get out of the blocks quicker 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&aposs HSBC Champions event in Shanghai, where he overturned a 12-shot deficit in the final round before losing out to world number two 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&aposs cheque after making one of his best starts to a year. “I&aposm definitely a slow starter,” he said. “It&aposs 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 played very well again. I started off a bit iffy and missed a few greens at the start but I got it together.” “All in all, a pretty solid day&aposs work and I was quite pleased. Confidence is very high at the moment. You can&apost help be confident.” 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. Westwood was finally rewarded with further birdies at the seventh and ninth, where he got up and down from a greenside bunker. The Ryder Cup star played alongside Kaymer, who claimed his maiden victory in Abu Dhabi, but struggled to an opening 75. “We didn&apost talk about last Sunday at all, I did say well done to him a few times. It&aposs nice to be congratulated when you&aposve won, but you also have to forget about it when the next week comes round,” added Westwood. “I remember when I won my first tournament, it was nearly impossible to concentrate the following week.” “I&aposm not surprised he shot a couple over today. He&aposs a strong player, he&aposs got to enjoy it for a couple of weeks and I think he looked like that.” Australian former champion Scott and Sergio Garcia were among a seven-strong group two shots off the lead on three under par after battling testing afternoon conditions. Both had chances at the last but missed makeable birdie putts within eight feet, a fact not lost on world number 12 Garcia. “I played the last 10 holes pretty well, unfortunately I missed a few birdie chances coming in,” Garcia said. “I got around nicely at the beginning and holed a few nice par putts then unfortunately missed a few short ones coming in, but it was good overall as it&aposs the first round of the year. Scott also only dropped only stroke, at the par-four 14th, but was pleased to be in the hunt on his first return to Doha since his superb six-stroke victory six years ago. “It was pretty good considering it was tricky out there,” he said. “I hit some good shots and made some good putts and I also scrambled hard.” “I had a few long putts which I managed to two putt and I am happy overall, although I am disappointed to miss the one at the last.” Scott finished the day two strokes ahead of compatriot Scott Strange, who managed three birdies and two bogeys in his one-under 71 on Thursday (Qatar time). A further shot back was Marcus Fraser and Peter O&aposMalley, who both endured up and down rounds on their way to an even-par 72 score, while New Zealand&aposs Michael Campbell was erratic once again in posting 73 on day one of the tournament.