x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Triple crown back in the balance for Kaymer

German in pole position going into the season-ending Dubai World Championship and has only Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell blocking his path.

Martin Kaymer, right, sizes up his Race to Dubai rival Graeme McDowell yesterday at the Earth Course.
Martin Kaymer, right, sizes up his Race to Dubai rival Graeme McDowell yesterday at the Earth Course.

DUBAI // Germany is still buzzing over the spectacular elevation of Sebastian Vettel to the peak of the motorsport world.

Martin Kaymer knows that his chances of being voted sportsman of the year in his homeland ended the moment the chequered flag came down at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as Vettel won to become Formula One world champion.

But the man who has also triumphed in the UAE capital is determined to be regarded as the closest of runners-up in the German poll.

Kaymer is on the verge of winning the Race to Dubai, which is European golf's equivalent to the year-long drivers' championship.

He finds himself in pole position going into the season-ending Dubai World Championship (DWC) and has only Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell blocking his path.

Unlike Vettel, who came storming through in the last race of his campaign, Kaymer has seen the winning post for over a month now.

He surged clear of the chasing pack thanks to a stunning purple patch of form which saw him capture the US PGA Championship and follow it up with two more victories. "After that spell I was thinking that I would arrive in Dubai with a big lead," said Kaymer, who was almost €1 million (Dh4.92m) clear before McDowell started chipping away at that advantage by winning last month's Andalucia Valderrama Masters.

Now the gap is €290,000 and Kaymer admitted to being disappointed that the third of his three career goals - winning a major and playing in the Ryder Cup were the other two - is back in the balance.

"It's been a fantastic season for me," Kaymer said.

"To win my first major and to be part of the winning Ryder Cup team is way above my expectations to be honest.

"Obviously when you win a major you know that you can win any tournament in the world.

"I've played very well the last few months and going into this week I feel confident about my game. Hopefully I can play well and make sure that I win the Race to Dubai somehow."

But he would have liked to have finished the Race earlier.

"Of course I wish that the Race was already over but it's good for the European Tour, good for Dubai and good for the spectators that it's not over.

"One or more of the guys had to play fantastic to make sure that it wasn't over and Graeme has certainly done that.

"It is a lot more interesting now and it will be fun."

Kaymer, who enjoys playing in the Middle East, having twice triumphed in Abu Dhabi, has a different mindset this week than the one he had 12 months ago.

A year ago, he was an outsider behind Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy in the battle to top the money list.

Now he is hot favourite.

That creates a different kind of pressure - pressure that he was unable to cope with in the Ryder Cup and pressure that overcame him when the opportunity to snatch the world No 1 ranking from Westwood came his way earlier this month.

"Yes, there will be more pressure on me here than in normal tournaments," he said.

"But the same applies to Graeme. It is tough to say which of us will feel it more. I have got to try to feel the same way as I do at the start of any other event."

Kaymer maintained that last year's winning aggregate of 23-under-par posted by Westwood was a one-off.

"I was not expecting that," he said. "I think if I can get it to 16, 17-under that should be enough."

Details

What: Dubai World Championship
When: Tomorrow-Sunday
Where: Earth Course, Dubai
Who: Competitors of Race to Dubai
Timing: 7.30am start
Tickets: Register for free admission for the whole event at www.dubaiworldchampionship.com