Dubai (UAE): The 2010 Dubai World Championship presented by DP World gets underway at the Earth course, Jumeirah Golf Estates today (Thursday) with the pairing of Race to Dubai leader Martin Kaymer and his nearest challenger Graeme McDowell the pick of the two-balls.
The top 60 players in The Race to Dubai will tackle the Greg Norman-designed course in 30 pairings with South Africa’s Thomas Aiken and Soren Hansen of Denmark the first group out at 7.30am.
But it’s the 12.30pm showdown between Kaymer from Germany and Northern Ireland’s McDowell that will catch the public eye as the only two men capable of winning the Race and becoming the new European Number One face a fascinating personal duel as the last pair out.
With Kaymer ahead in the standings the German will start as slight favourite. The punishing length of the Earth course may also be a key factor with McDowell not a renowned big hitter compared to his 25 year-old rival. However, the man from Northern Ireland is in confident mood as he goes chasing a title that would cap a remarkable season on The European Tour.
“If you had asked me at the end of last year’s tournament what I thought of the golf course, I probably wouldn’t have had many good things to say about it,” he smiled. “But this year I’m probably longer off the tee than I was this time last year, which is going to be a huge benefit this week.
“You’ve got to drive the ball well – there’s no masking that fact. Lee Westwood was probably the best driver of the ball in the world last year; probably still is, and it was no surprise that he played well around here.
“I drove the ball well in the Pro Am and the golf course didn’t feel quite as much a slog as it did last year, so I’m hoping my extra length off the tee and the way I’m driving the ball at the minute should help me.”
Like Kaymer – a team mate in Europe’s Ryder Cup win and a Major champion as the winner of the USPGA – McDowell has enjoyed the best season of his professional career with Ryder Cup success and a Major win at the US Open the obvious highlights.
“My goals in 2010 were to get back in the winner’s circle,” he added. “I wanted to compete at a Sunday afternoon at a Major Championship and to get myself as high up as possible in the World Rankings.
“If you had shown me the script in January for this year, I wouldn’t have believed it. It’s certainly beyond my wildest expectations, for sure. But it’s felt right. I’ve been quietly going about my business the last five or six years gaining some great experience around the world and putting my game to the test and learning from mistakes that I’ve made.
“I certainly wouldn’t have expected this season to go the way it has. To have two huge highlights like the US Open at Pebble Beach and The Ryder Cup… it’s been amazing.”
While McDowell playing alongside Kaymer is a mouth-watering prospect, the draw has a number of great names playing side by side. World Number One Lee Westwood goes out with Francesco Molinari (12.20pm), Ryder Cup stars Ollie Fisher and Luke Donald will play together (11.30am), while Ernie Els and Ian Poulter at 12.10pm is another formidable pairing.
Free tickets are available from the website www.dubaiworldchampionship.com. In addition to DP World – Presenting Sponsor for the second year in succession – the Dubai World Championship is supported by Premium Partners Rolex, Emirates, and BMW; Sponsors Atlantis, CNN, The National and Polo/Ralph Lauren; and Event Supporters Dubai Duty Free, MMI, TNT and Toshiba.
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Caption: Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer will tee off together in the fight to be European Number One when the Dubai World Championship presented by DP World gets underway today (Thursday)
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