McDowell sets his sights on top three
GRAEME McDOWELL will climb one rung to a career-high fourth in the world when golf's latest global rankings are unveiled later today.
Unusually, US Open hero McDowell and Masters champion Phil Mickelson both share fourth -- though world ranking points can be broken down to the fifth decimal place, these two Ryder Cup rivals are still inseparable on 6.23830.
This adds further spice to their confrontation in the Arabian desert this week, when McDowell and Mickelson both try to rip the Abu Dhabi Championship title from Martin Kaymer's grasp and leapfrog the German into third place in the world.
McDowell spearheads a formidable eight-man Irish challenge in Abu Dhabi, which includes his fellow Ulsterman and best mate Rory McIlroy and three-time Major champion Padraig Harrington, plus Darren Clarke, Gareth Maybin, Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane and Michael Hoey.
And it'd be quite a surprise if Paul McGinley, a prominent member of the 15-man European Tour Tournament Players Committee which tomorrow unveils Jose Maria Olazabal as Ryder Cup captain for 2012 in Chicago, doesn't make it into the 126-man field.
Clarke and Maybin both flew from the Joburg Open, in which Charl Schwartzel yesterday became only the third South African, after Ernie Els and Trevor Immelman, to successfully defend the title.
A four-under-par 67 in the final round on the East Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club helped Schwartzel finish four shots clear of countryman Garth Mulroy.
The 26-year-old, whose previous scores this week have been 68, an immaculate 61 and 69, failed to produce his best golf in round four, hitting just one fairway on the back nine, but still did enough hot work with his wedges and putter to clinch a sixth European Tour title on 19-under par.
Mulroy and another South African, Thomas Aiken, were level with Schwartzel going into the final 18 holes but couldn't keep pace with him, Mulroy closing with a 71 and Aiken shooting 72 for third place.
Clarke completed his two-tournament sojourn in South Africa with a two-under-par 69 for a share of 20th place on six-under , which was worth €14,059. However, the Northern Ireland veteran leaked a couple of shots and quite a few euro as he followed up a birdie on 15 with a couple of late dropped shots.
Maybin finished one stroke back in a tie for 27th on five-under par, yet the €11,570 he banked fell well below the sum he'd have been hoping for on Friday as he completed the opening 36 holes in nine-under par after his second round of 64.
The Ballyclare clubman landed just one birdie at the weekend, during Saturday's 72, which he followed up with a lacklustre 74 yesterday.
Colm Moriarty endured an equally frustrating weekend in Johannesburg, two rounds of 73 leaving him with a share of 49th place on one-under par and a cheque for €5,720.
Moriarty needed a top-10 finish to make it into the field for Abu Dhabi this week and Glasson's Challenge Tour regular now is likely to have to wait until March for his next competitive outing.