x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Dubai World Championship: thanks for the memories

Our reporter Gary Meenaghan has the best of company as he takes in the first act of the final show in the Race to Dubai.

Martin Kaymer continued to deny Graeme McDowell’s hopes yesterday.
Martin Kaymer continued to deny Graeme McDowell’s hopes yesterday.

It was great that you could join me yesterday at the Dubai World Championship. I trust you enjoyed yourself?

Strolling around the picturesque Earth Course is always more pleasurable when you have company - and what company we had, huh?

The top two players in Europe walking alongside us for a few hours, separated only by a piece of red rope. Fantastic.

Do you remember when they walked into the tee-box at the first and we all clapped, a mixture of nerves and excitement filling the moist air?

Even for a Thursday, it felt special. I guess that's what happens when it all comes down to the last tournament of the season and the two contenders are paired together on the first day of play.

You thought Graeme McDowell looked a little nervous, but he didn't show it on those first few holes, playing to par and doing so with his usual swagger and smile.

After the round - when you wanted to sample the entertainment, but I had to get back to the media centre - Martin Kaymer told the assembled press corps that this week is the most important of his career. He certainly didn't play like he was feeling the pressure, did he?

I have slept on the question you posed to me last night, too, and I think, were you to ask me again now, I would have to say the decisive moment of the German's round was his eagle from the fairway on the third.

I remember we were stood staring into the sky trying to find the ball when the gallery at the green started clapping.

He'd only gone and filled the cup from 192 yards, hadn't he? It seemed to inspire him as much as it surprised us - despite the bogey immediately afterwards.

It must have been hard for McDowell to have to play alongside his immediate opponent in the race for the Order of Merit.

When Kaymer drove into the treacherous woodchip on the seventh, McDowell must have been buoyed. But then of course, as you know, he had to watch as his playing partner recovered to card a par.

And it was the same on the eighth, when Kaymer's drive found sand.

I'm sure you recall, but it had shot low down the middle of the fairway and everyone clapped, but Kaymer did not look happy.

As the cheers began to fade, we watched his reaction, remember? He knew it had skewed and he was proved correct as it rolled into that deep bunker on the left. Yet, once more, that crafty Kaymer made amends with his red hot putter.

It's interesting that we both noticed Kaymer, having reached five-under by the time he birdied the 11th, seemed to ease off slightly as McDowell fell to two-over on the 12th. The 25-year-old must have been quietly disappointed to only play the final seven holes to par, especially when he had so many chances to nick birdies and with McDowell managing to break even by the 18th, there is still a sliver of hope for the Northern Irishman, isn't there?

That said Kaymer knows just as well as we do that all he must do is finish above McDowell to secure the Race to Dubai title. And it wasn't only us who noticed the two players didn't speak much during their round, either - although you may be glad to hear there is no bad blood between them.

They only spoke "two or three sentences" in four hours of golf, but Kaymer told us later that they were both just focusing on their games. That's understandable.

With neither of them conversing much, it's a shame we didn't bump into Neal Graham, the director of golf at Earth.

He could have relayed a story or two, I'm sure. He is in charge of the pro-am and the entertainment and everything else that goes on and he told me last week the DWC tends to attract a different crowd because of the social aspect on offer.

As you pointedly observed, it was certainly a different crowd to what we are used to at the Desert Classic and the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. Turbans and tie-dye T-shirts, women snoozing in hammocks and guys in football strips. It was an eclectic bunch.

Still, I don't think I could have wished for better company: two of the most talented golfers on Tour and you, my inner monologue.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae