MARTIN KAYMER trailed his European Tour money-list rival Graeme McDowell by four shots after the first round of the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama in southern Spain yesterday, as his quest to become World No 1 got off to a rocky start.
The German needs to win or share second place with no more than one other player if he, rather than the absent Lee Westwood, is to succeed Tiger Woods in top spot when the American's 281- week reign ends on Monday.
Kaymer could only card a oneover-par round of 72, however, to find himself six strokes adrift of first-round leader Pablo Larrazabal and sharing 30th place with, among others, Darren Clarke and Peter Lawrie.
Three successive bogeys on the back nine ruined Kaymer's round after he had reached the turn at level par, although he showed signs of recovery with a birdie at the par-four 16th.
By contrast, Spaniard Larrazabal was flawless as he carded an impressive 66. The 27-year-old closed with birdies at 16 and 17 to open up a two-stroke advantage over Ryder Cup hero McDowell.
The US Open champion, who claimed the vital final point at Celtic Manor to win the Ryder Cup for Europe earlier this month, enjoyed an unblemished 68 with three birdies to help him share second with fellow Irishman Damien McGrane.
McDowell is currently second in the European money list and his steady day improved his slight chances of catching runaway leader Kaymer, with €500,000 on offer to the winner this week.
“I've got a lot of golf ahead of me yet,” said McDowell. “I'll have to play my best golf to catch him – even then my best may not be enough.”
Another Irishman, Gareth Maybin, was in a two-way tie for fourth with India's Shiv Kapur after he carded birdies at the fourth and 10th holes.
A group of nine players stood a stroke further back and included Ballymoney’s Michael Hoey, alongside Ryder Cup winners Francesco Molinari and Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Shane Lowry is tied for 44th after a two-over-par 73, with Ryder Cup vice-captain Paul McGinley further back after a 74.
Meanwhile, American Ricky Barnes (29) stormed to the top of the first-round leaderboard at the CIMB Asia-Pacific Classic in Kuala Lumpur by firing an eightunder-par 63 to establish a oneshot advantage over Ryan Moore – in the first-ever co-sanctioned Asian and PGA Tour event.
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