Lee Westwood still has Georgia on his mind even though he has flown out of America and back to Europe this week.

With the Masters now only two weeks away, Westwood defends the Andalucian Open title at Aloha in southern Spain before returning across the Atlantic.

Finishes of 17th and 34th at Bay Hill and Doral the last two weeks were not as good as the Ryder Cup points-leader was looking for, especially as he was only three off the lead at the halfway stage of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

lee_westwood.jpgBut having started the European Tour season with four successive top 10s, including runners-up finishes in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi, Westwood is hoping a return to a happy hunting ground will provide a timely boost just before the first major of the season.

A two-stroke victory at Aloha last May was the 34-year-old’s first victory for nearly four years, although others were more worried about that long barren run than he was.

“I won so often in the late 90s that if I had a spell where I didn’t win, people were always going to highlight it and get on my case about it,” he said. “But I was never going to get on my own case.”

Last September at The Belfry he added the British Masters by a commanding five shots, his closing 65 bringing back memories of the form he showed in winning the 2000 European Order of Merit.

Westwood has had finishes of fourth in the Open, fifth in the US Open and sixth in the Masters.

That was nine years ago and, sharing the lead as he did with nine holes to go at Augusta, he admitted it was an experience that made him feel physically sick.

This season, though, he has already said: “I feel closer to a major than ever before.

“I like all the major venues this year and I feel ready to have a second career and kick on.”

He is fitter and stronger than ever before, losing six inches off a waist that 18 months ago measured an unhealthy 40 inches, has sharpened up his short game with the help of former Tour player Mark Roe and, of course, has added experience.

He is far from alone in fitting in another European Tour appearance between the CA Championship in Miami and the Masters.

Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez is back – no surprise because he is one of the promoters close to his Malaga home – and so are Dane Anders Hansen, 12th on Monday after the final round spilled into an extra day, and German Martin Kaymer.

Two other players, Welshman Bradley Dredge and Swede Peter Hanson, need to win on Sunday to have a chance of climbing into the world’s top 50 and so claiming a late spot at Augusta.