x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Kaymer in control at favourite course in Abu Dhabi

Weather fails to hinder the German as the world No 3 thrills on the National Course in capital and is in good shape for third title.

Kaymer hit a 65 on this par 72 course for the third time at the venue.
Kaymer hit a 65 on this par 72 course for the third time at the venue.

ABU DHABI // Martin Kaymer’s love affair with the National Course continued yesterday as the young German moved a step closer to a third Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

Kaymer’s seven-under-par 65 – compiled in the worst of the unfriendly weather – gave him a three-stroke lead heading into the second half of the tournament.

Over the past four years, his aggregate over the National Course is 68 under par for 14 rounds.

This was the third time Kaymer has posted a 65 here. It enabled him to surge past the first-round leader Charl Schwartzel, whom he had trailed by three shots at the start of play; and Graeme McDowell, who had been one stroke better off than Kaymer after 18 holes.

Whether his performance would have been good enough to overtake his first-round playing partner Padraig Harrington will never be known; Harrington was disqualified yesterday morning after it was discovered that his ball had moved slightly when he replaced it on the seventh green during Thursday’s opening round.

Kaymer was surprised that Harrington, whose 65 on Thursday had led for much of the day, had been disqualified. “Padraig is one of the fairest guys you could meet on tour,” he said. “So I cannot believe he did anything wrong on purpose. And he played some great golf in that first round. He definitely had a chance of winning the tournament.”

The absence of Harrington clearly increases Kaymer’s prospects of another Abu Dhabi title after his victories here in 2008 and 2010. He is brimming with confidence.

“Leading by three shots, I can only lose the tournament now,” said Kaymer, who won the US PGA Championship last year. “My wins last year have given me the belief that I can win any tournament that I enter and obviously I have put myself in a strong position in this one.”

Schwartzel seemingly had justification to approach the final two rounds in a bullish mood after his sparkling form over the past few weeks was followed by rounds of 64 and 71 here.

However, fatigue may be catching up on the South African who has prospered in his homeland over the past few weeks, winning once and finishing in the top five of three other events.

“When you have got six fives on your scorecard you know there is something going wrong,” he said after rescuing his erratic round with two late birdies. “I wasn’t too bad off the tee but I kept missing my irons on the short side and on this golf course that makes life difficult. But I’m still in there. If this was going to be my bad day then I’ve got some positives to look forward to.”

McDowell, who had transformed an indifferent first round with a blistering finish of five successive birdies, again had to show his character after an unsatisfactory opening to his round.

“A 4.45am alarm call is never much fun,” he said after keeping his appointment with fellow major champions Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen for an early-morning tee-off. “Bogeys on the first two holes is certainly not what you are looking for.”

He retrieved those shots and added three more birdies, two of them coming after he had suffered his third bogey as a consequence of what he described as a clumsy pitch to the sixth hole, his 15th.

“It was a good day’s work,” he said. “I’ve got myself in a decent position for the weekend.” Phil Mickelson, playing alongside McDowell and Goosen, has possibly left himself with too much to do over the final 36 holes to make his Abu Dhabi debut a successful one. The US Masters champion is tied for 25th place.

“A number of the guys are making quite a few putts but I’m leaving a few out there,” he said.

wjohnson@thenational.ae