- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 24, 2010

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (AP) - Ryder Cup teammates and 2010 major winners Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell will square off at this week’s Dubai World Championship for the right to be called Europe’s top golfer.

The $7.5 million season-ending tournament in the Race to Dubai series starts Thursday, with the German leading McDowell by $395,395 and top-ranked Lee Westwood by $1.25 million.

McDowell, from Northern Ireland, is the only player capable of catching Kaymer. McDowell would capture the title by winning the tournament or finishing alone in second place as long as Kaymer finished no higher than tied for third. If McDowell is tied for second, Kaymer could afford to finish as low as sixth.

McDowell said he’s playing some of his best golf coming into Dubai and welcomed the chance to go head-to-head with the more understated Kaymer. The two will tee off in the final pairing Thursday.

“It’s going to be fun to play alongside him on Thursday and look each other in the eye,” McDowell said. “He’s had an amazing season as well and it’s going to be a lot of fun out there. Like I say, the adrenaline is going to be there from the word go, so I’m looking forward to it.”

McDowell felt he had momentum on his side after a lull in his game that followed his win at the U.S. Open. He earned the winning point in the Ryder Cup and has since won the Andalucia Masters and had a strong finish 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. “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.”

McDowell is in a similar position to that of Westwood last year. The Englishman was trailing Rory McIlroy coming into the final tournament but shot a course-record 8-under 64 in the final round at the Earth Course to finish at 23-under 265 to win and become Europe’s No. 1 golfer.

McIlroy, who also is from Northern Ireland, said he thinks McDowell could do something similar this week.

“He’s done fantastically well this season,” McIlroy said. “He’s on a roll where he is putting his name up there every week. That’s something he’s probably not managed to do over the past few seasons.”

McDowell called the course, with its long fairways, a “grip-it-and-rip-it type of course.” That would seem to suit the big-hitting Kaymer more than McDowell, who relies more on placement and finesse. But the No. 9 player in the world said he’s hitting the ball longer than he was a year ago thanks to new, 46 1/2-inch driver and the work he’s done on his swing with coach Pete Cowen.

“There is a big emphasis to driving the ball and I feel like I’ve upped my game from that point of view,” he said. “So I like what I saw in the pro-am yesterday. I drove the ball well and the golf course didn’t feel quite as much as a slog as it did a year ago.”

Kaymer, who skipped the Hong Kong Open to rest ahead of Dubai, on Tuesday called this week “the biggest of my career so far” and said winning would complete three goals he set for himself _ to win a major, win the Ryder Cup and become the No. 1 golfer in Europe.

“So two-thirds are done and hopefully this week I can win the Race To Dubai and become the No. 1 in Europe,” he said. “So then I have done everything in one year. It would be fantastic.

“I don’t need to win, but that is my goal,” Kaymer added. “I can’t rely on Graeme playing bad. He’s been playing great golf in the last few weeks.”

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