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Lee Westwood upbeat about South African Open chances

Lee Westwood is in a confident mood as a result of his recent form.

Westwood bids to overcome hometown favorites Ernie Els and Retief Goosen in the South African Airways Open in Port Elizabeth beginning on Thursday.

After an eight-week layoff, Westwood returned to action last week at the Dunhill Championship and was in good form, putting together four solid rounds to finish third against a quality field.

"I'm really pleased about the way I've come back, especially when you consider I had eight weeks off and I was a bit rusty," Westwood said. "I truly wasn't quite ready to go out and play and then we had a problem with the flights - I arrived a day late last week - and then had to deal with the heat, which I wasn't used to.

"So if you take those factors into consideration, I am delighted with my form last week."

Humewood is as close to a links course as you can get in South Africa but there has been some concern over its condition, as first drought and then floods played havoc with preparations. Westwood's acquaintance with the course was delayed until late on Tuesday after an injury caused him to call off a practice round.

"I've got a bit of a bad back at the moment," he said. "I had some treatment and on advice had to cancel my round. I was only planning on playing nine holes but from what I gather the course has a good links feel about it."

While some observers were surprised at Westwood's decision to return to action now, rather than waiting until the new year, the man himself admitted he needed to begin playing again sooner rather than later.

"I had a long year and did a lot of travelling - especially in the middle part of the year, going back and forth between Europe and the U.S. and decided it was a good opportunity to take a break - I was only missing a few events in Asia," Westwood said. "To come down here, there is almost no time change or jetlag problems and I have always played well in South Africa.

"There are a lot of world ranking points in these two weeks and with eight weeks off, if I had missed these two weeks it would have been a real big stretch without playing. Also I have some things I have been working on in the gym which I want to put into practice."

Defending champion Goosen and three-time winner Els are Westwood's main rivals this weekend, with Trevor Immelman, the PGA tour Rookie of the Year, completing a trio of big local names gunning for the title.

Angel Cabrera and youngster Charl Schwartzel are also in the field.



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