Sunday 26 February 2017

McDowell up for battle in Dubai finale

Karl MacGinty in Dubai

Graeme McDowell is relishing the prospect of taking on Martin Kaymer
Graeme McDowell is relishing the prospect of taking on Martin Kaymer

MAJOR champions Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen stood shoulder to shoulder in the desert sun yesterday as the European Tour broke out the best silverware in the run-up to this week's Dubai World Championship.

Yet US Open hero McDowell is relishing the prospect of looking PGA Champion Kaymer straight in the eye when they meet on the first tee at the Earth Course tomorrow for the first round of their high-noon showdown for the 2010 Race to Dubai title.

McDowell plays his fifth tournament on the trot this week, but he flatly dismissed any suggestion that victory at Valderrama, followed by two close calls at Singapore and Hong Kong in the past fortnight, might have drained his batteries.

As Europe's match-clincher proved at the climax to September's Ryder Cup, nobody enjoys going mano-a-mano more than McDowell. The Portrush rottweiler believes the adrenalin rush stirred by this week's confrontation with Race to Dubai leader Kaymer (25) will carry him all the way through to Sunday.

The greatest year of his golfing career has boiled down to a 72-hole battle for Europe's biggest prize and McDowell insists: "This is exactly what I needed.

"This is why this week is going to work for me -- because any tiredness I may have in my body isn't going to come out until this is all over. The adrenalin will be pumping. It'll be game on and I'll be up for it."

spectacular

McDowell's fellow Ulsterman Rory McIlroy handed Race to Dubai rival Lee Westwood a significant psychological boost after day one of last year's end-of-season spectacular by admitting it probably was better not to be paired with the Englishman on the second day.

In contrast, McDowell has no fear that playing with Kaymer might distract the two of them from the primary task -- namely winning the tournament.

"It's going to be good to look Martin in the eye on the first tee," he explained with a smile, which said it all.

McDowell, Kaymer and British Open winner Oosthuizen were presented with honorary life membership of the European Tour yesterday in recognition of their heroics at this year's Majors; and the German returned the compliment by announcing that he'd decided against taking out US PGA Tour membership in 2011.

"I'll stick with the European Tour," said Kaymer, who spent much of last week climbing the walls, though it had nothing to do with the deliberations about his future. Kaymer, an adventure sports fanatic, spent his spare time clambering all over an artificial indoor rock face near his home.

His forearms still ached yesterday but otherwise he was rested and relaxed after sleeping 12 hours for each of four nights in succession last week. Kaymer's phenomenal hat-trick of tournament victories in the autumn and his Ryder Cup debut clearly took a toll.

After McIlroy's recent decision to relinquish his US card in 2011, Kaymer's news is another fillip for European golf, though Oosthuizen and McDowell have opted to take out membership of the US PGA Tour next year.

Asked who's shoes he'd rather fill this week, Oosthuizen opted for Kaymer, pointing to the German's €290,911 advantage on the money list.

"I'd rather be leading," he said. "But Graeme's one of the last guys you'd want to have snapping at your heels. He never gives up."

Irish Independent

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