x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

One goal at a time for McDowell

Northern Irishman pleased with success this year but has new targets in the short term with the Race to Dubai title the only one on the radar.

Graeme McDowell, of Northern Ireland, has been on a winning spree in recent times.
Graeme McDowell, of Northern Ireland, has been on a winning spree in recent times.

ABU DHABI // The chance to crown a memorable season with the Race to Dubai title has made Graeme McDowell more than willing to put in some golfing overtime over the last month.

Since clinching the Ryder Cup for Europe in dramatic fashion at Celtic Manor in Wales, the Northern Irishman has embarked on an exhausting run of tournaments in Spain, where he won at Valderrama, China, Singapore and last weekend Hong Kong, where he was a threat to Ian Poulter, the eventual winner, until starting slowly in the final round.

He is now hoping to be rewarded for all those extra hours with a US$2.75million (Dh10.1m) pay day by matching the feat England's Lee Westwood achieved on Greg Norman's Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates a year ago and win the European Tour order of merit title and the Dubai World Championship.

Speaking yesterday from the Yas Links clubhouse in Abu Dhabi at the launch of next year's Al Naboodah Invitational, McDowell said his "results in that four-week spell have been beyond my expectations".

He added: "The sheer adrenaline has kept me going and I arrived here in the UAE feeling much fresher than I thought I would be. The Race to Dubai is very special to me."

It also holds a special place in the heart of Westwood whose six-stroke victory last year enabled him to overtake Rory McIlroy, the Race leader, down the finishing straight and win the double honour. That victory went a long way to propelling the Englishman to No 1 in the world.

McDowell has his sights set on following a similar path. Westwood, on the other hand, will be envious of McDowell's maiden major victory this year, at the US Open at Pebble Beach.

"When I won that US Open trophy ... it was all of my dreams coming true in one day," McDowell said. "But it is important to refocus and reset your goals.

"The Ryder Cup became the next big goal and for me to be part of the winning team was a wonderful experience. The next goal is the Race to Dubai and I was determined to come here with a chance to win it.

"I started my recent programme nearly a million euros (Dh5,017m) behind Martin [Kaymer, the Race leader]. Now I am within €300,000, knowing that to win the tournament on Sunday would take me past him. But I know that is not going to be easy. Martin has had a fantastic season, winning the US PGA and adding two more titles straight afterwards so he's going to be hard to beat."

The two main contenders to win the second Race to Dubai will be able to keep a close eye on each other at the Earth Course. The 60 qualifiers for the Dubai World Championship are paired in order of their positions in the Race with the top two players going out last.

McDowell excelled in the matchplay conditions of the Ryder Cup, holing the clinching putt against the Americans, while Kaymer laboured under the different type of pressure that the transatlantic showdown creates. The US Open winner would relish another matchplay situation on Sunday afternoon.

"It might come down to a me-against-him situation at the weekend," he said. "But the first objective is to play the course, rather than the man. Golf is not like rugby where I can go out and tackle my opponent. I can't affect his score but coming down the home stretch on Sunday I might be able to influence how he plays."

wjohnson@thenational.ae