Lee Westwood has spoken of a December battle with Covid-19 continuing to impact him as he starts his professional year. Westwood, who is asthmatic, revealed last week in Abu Dhabi was the first time he had walked 18 holes since competing in Houston in mid-November.
Westwood is in contention at the Dubai Desert Classic after delivering back-to-back 69s. He is five from the halfway lead, held by Justin Harding. Westwood’s explanation of circumstances renders his performance here especially impressive. “Covid has knocked me back quite a lot,” he said. “It felt like the flu and a chest infection. I’m not very often ill and I hate being ill and it takes a lot to stop me but I didn’t really get off the couch for two weeks in December. It surprised me how bad I was. It’s draining. I don’t feel like I can get as much air into my lungs at the moment. I am glad I was vaccinated.”
Westwood, who will compete in Saudi Arabia next week, shrugged off comments from his former Ryder Cup teammate Colin Montgomerie. The Scot referred to “evil money” in respect of those playing in the Saudi International. “Everybody has got their own opinions,” said Westwood. This issue continues to linger.
Paul Casey matched Westwood’s aggregate despite visibly struggling with a neck problem. “I need full physical ability if I want to try and compete against the guys at the top of the leaderboard,” said the defending champion. “So I’m hoping I actually feel better tomorrow.”
Harding added a 68 to Thursday’s 65 to earn a two-stroke lead over Tyrrell Hatton. “It would be pretty special to win this tournament,” said Hatton. “I remember when I was at school, waking up early in the morning to start watching it.”
Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy’s 66 for a seven-under total means he retains legitimate hopes of what would be a third Desert Classic success.
The highlight of McIlroy’s day two was a chip-in eagle at the 13th. “I hit the ball well enough for that score to be a good bit lower,” said McIlroy. “I missed a few opportunities. I certainly hit the ball as well as I’ve done in a long time, it could have been a few better but 66 this afternoon is a good score and sets me up for a nice weekend.”
Ian Poulter and Robert MacIntyre were among those to miss the halfway cut.