ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Tiger Woods is fighting fit and very happy with his game going into this week’s Abu Dhabi Championship, world number three Rory McIlroy said on Wednesday.
U.S. Open champion McIlroy practised with the former world number one on Tuesday and will play with the American and current number one Luke Donald in the opening two rounds.
Woods has tumbled down the world rankings following personal problems and injuries over the past two years but he won the Chevron World Challenge in December to climb back up to 25th.
“He seems like he’s happy with everything - I know he’s definitely happy that he feels like he’s back to 100 percent fitness, which is great for him,” McIlroy told reporters.
”He hit a lot of good shots out there, so I think he’s worked hard in the off-season and looks like his game is in pretty good shape.
“It’s definitely not a quiet way to start the year. You are playing with two of the best golfers in the world in the first two days and up against one of the strongest fields that will be assembled this year,” said McIlroy.
World number two Lee Westwood, who won tournaments in South Africa and Thailand at the end of last year, will play with defending champion Martin Kaymer of Germany and Spaniard Sergio Garcia in the first two rounds.
“The most pleasing thing was about four weeks prior to that I started working with Phil Kenyon, my new putting coach,” Westwood said.
“To shoot 62 around Sun City and 60 and 64 around the course in Thailand you need to start making a few 15-footers, which I’ve been missing for the previous 17 years,” he joked.
Westwood said his improved putting should boost his chances of winning his first major title this year.
“I think it’s very difficult to win a major without making a few (putts) that are surprising or bonuses, so if I can start rolling in a few 25-30-footers that’s obviously going to make a massive difference,” he said.
”The difference with Phil is that my practice is a lot more structured and based around drills to make sure that I do the same thing over and over again.
“It helps your whole game. It gives you confidence and if you start making putts that you have not been making it takes the pressure off your long game.”
Writing by Ed Osmond, editing by Pritha Sarkar