x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Gaffe leaves Kaymer too far behind

Martin Kaymer is all but certain to be Europe's No 1, but he has too much to do in the final round to crown his ascent in the Dubai World Championship.

Martin Kaymer reacts after his ball goes into the water on the Earth Course yesterday.
Martin Kaymer reacts after his ball goes into the water on the Earth Course yesterday.

DUBAI // A cruel stroke of misfortune on the final green may have left Martin Kaymer with too much to do in his quest to confirm his elevation to European No 1 status with a crowning victory in the Dubai World Championship.

Kaymer, guaranteed to win the second running of the Race to Dubai after his only rival, Graeme McDowell, ran out of steam on the Earth Course, was looking a decent prospect for the big-money double as he assessed his wedge into to the long closing hole and savoured the prospect of birdie to get within three shots of the lead.

His approach looked fine in the air but the heavy amount of spin the German applied to the ball saw it stop sharply and roll slowly into the stream that meanders the length of this 620-yard monster.

Kaymer chipped his recovery to within four feet but missed the ensuing bogey putt and fell headlong down a congested leader board into a tie for 11th place.

"It was not a very good day," said Kaymer, assessing an erratic round of six birdies, five bogeys and that double at 18.

"It was a weird day for me. I was a lot of times in-between clubs, so I had to play a little bit defensively. When you cannot really hit the shot that you want to hit, once in a while you miss it."

Kaymer blamed himself for the day-ending double, and did not minimise the damage it wreaked.

"That was a huge mistake on 18," he said. "I think it has put me in a position where I cannot really win the tournament anymore because Ian [Poulter] has been playing fantastic the last few weeks and to be six shots behind him is a big gap.

"Yes, it looks like I have won The Race to Dubai, which is nice, but I want to play well here, as well. I want to finish as high as possible."

The late lapse by the normally steady German will also leave him waiting to fulfil another of his career ambitions.

By conceding that his chances of victory today have been dashed, his hopes of replacing Lee Westwood as world No 1 are gone, too.

Nothing else but victory here will earn Kaymer that honour if Westwood, joint fifth overnight, gets his ball round without too many alarms and maintains a place in the top 27.

Westwood, who captured the Dubai World Championship and Race to Dubai double last year, confessed to finding it "a bit of a grind" as he and playing partner Paul Casey both lost ground on Poulter, the leader.

"You have days like that," said Westwood, whose competitive edge has been blunted by his having to take more time off than he would have liked through a nagging calf injury.

"Not a lot went for me out there and it turned into one of those grinding days. I kept giving myself chances at birdies but nothing would go in.

"But I still have a chance to win here. Considering how rusty I am and how many good opportunities I have squandered over the last three days, that's saying something."