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Westwood hoping to reverse fortunes

Lee Westwood has returned to duty after a week's holiday in the South of France with a sizeable task on his hands in defending his European Open title.

He is seeking to complete a hat-trick of victories in the event, as fellow Briton Colin Montgomerie did last week in the Irish Open, although Westwood's would be consecutive successes.

And, like Montgomerie, Westwood wants to end a barren spell. He is floundering in 80th place on the order of merit he won last year.

An opening round of 81 -- one of his worst European Tour scores since his 1994 rookie year -- in the Great North Open just under a fortnight ago plunged the fast descending world number seven to new depths.

The 28-year-old Englishman is shrugging off his alarming form, however, still putting much of it down to the swing changes he is making to raise his game.

"I know my game is just around the corner," Westwood said. "There's no panic setting in. Something will happen sooner or later. It may gradually come back; it may come back with a bang.

"I still want to make changes. If you want to be just content with the way you're doing things, you'll stand still.

"Not to get to the next level, because I'm not sure there is a next level, but I've got to change a few things to improve.

"If that means taking a step backwards, so be it. I'm not really bothered if I don't play really well for a period of time.

"I can handle playing badly now better than I could last year. It's not the end of the world if I shoot 81.

"It's a bit like Monty said. He will have come out of not playing well a better person."

While he realises that there is a period in which making changes costs results, last year's European number one is not contemplating a length of adjustment like Nick Faldo's 17 years ago.

Faldo spent two years perfecting his swing with coach David Leadbetter -- a 'guru' Westwood has used -- before coming out with a game good enough to win his first major, the 1987 Open.

"I don't think there is any need to take two years out like Nick. The changes I'm making I can remain competitive while I'm doing them.

"Although I would like to come out of it as good a player as Nick when he changed everything."

Westwood will have ample chance to gauge the strength of his current game following his break in St Tropez with his family as he begins his defence alongside new U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen and impressive New Zealander Michael Campbell.

With Montgomerie and last week's joint second-placed Irishmen Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington in the field, Westwood will have his work cut out to make it three wins in a row at the K Club, venue for the 2005 Ryder Cup.

Jose Maria Olazabal, who has been pushed outside Europe's top 10 automatic Ryder Cup qualifiers to 12th after missing the cut last week, is looking to climb back up the table.

Fellow Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez has slipped even further to 18th and also hopes to rise this week.

Like the Spaniards, Germany's Bernhard Langer is spending much of his time in the U.S. and has dropped to 25th in the table.

Langer also seeks to take advantage of the huge haul of Cup points on offer this week.

With 553,728 points available to the winner and 100,000 to fourth place alone, there could be significant changes on Europe's table this weekend.


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