McDowell falls short in European money chase
U.S. Open Champion Graeme McDowell came into the Dubai World Championship brimming with confidence and talking about grabbing the European money title from leader Martin Kaymer.
Then, he came up against the Greg Norman-designed Earth course.
Almost from the moment McDowell teed off Thursday, the big-hitters' course got the best of the Northern Irelander. He struggled with the lengthy holes and made things worse for himself with miserable putting in the first two rounds.
By the end of the first round, the visibly frustrated McDowell was five shots behind Kaymer and seeing the European Tour money leader title slipping out of his grasp. He finished the tournament in a tie with the German for 13th place, well out of the top three which he needed to overtake Kaymer.
McDowell admitted the course frustrated him all week but chose to focus on his amazing run in the past few weeks that turned what seemed to be a cakewalk for Kaymer into a two-man race.
''To give Martin a run for his money this week was very good, things didn't really go my way this week,'' McDowell said Sunday. ''It's a golf course which frustrated me last year and continues to frustrate me, really. I did strike the ball much better tee to green this year than I did last year and gave myself a lot of chances.''
The 31-year-old McDowell knew he needed an excellent performance to overtake U.S. PGA champion Kaymer. McDowell could have captured the title by winning the tournament or ending outright second as long as Kaymer finished no higher than tied for third. If McDowell tied for second, Kaymer could have afforded to finish as low as sixth.
McDowell claimed the winning point in the Ryder Cup and also won the Andalucia Masters. He finished strongly in last week's Hong Kong Open which allowed him to close the gap on Kaymer who did not play.
''I started off in a bit of a five-week run here with Martin nearly a million euros ahead of me and I wasn't quite sure I would be able to catch him,'' McDowell said Thursday. ''But I wanted to get here with an opportunity to win The Race to Dubai if I played well and I've given myself that chance now.''
On Sunday McDowell preferred to reflect on his best season as a pro rather than dwell on what could have been.
''It's been a dream season,'' he said. ''Just so happened that Martin Kaymer had an unbelievable season as well, and it's just been a great year for European golf and I'm just very proud to be part of that.''
McDowell has a new target in his sights. Currently ranked No. 9, McDowell said Lee Westwood's rise to the No. 1 spot a few weeks ago has given him the confidence that he can do it too.
''Of course, I'd be lying to you if I didn't think I could be the world's No. 1,'' McDowell said.
''I think a few years ago ... Tiger Woods looked pretty untouchable, pretty invincible and we were all playing for second really,'' he said. ''I think nowadays it's a little different. When I look at one of my good friends and colleagues, Lee Westwood, as the world's No. 1 player, do I believe I can be the world's No. 1? Of course I do. If I didn't, there would be something wrong because there's a lot of room for improvement in my game and I know I can continue to get better and better.''