Martin Kaymer began his quest to win the Race to Dubai and be crowned Europe’s number one with a round of 67, but still found himself trailing the lead.
Kaymer got off to an excellent start in his opening round, carding a birdie and an eagle in his first three holes. A bogey on the fourth hole was cancelled by another birdie at the par-3 sixth hole, and the German added a pair of birdies on the homeward nine to come home in 5-under par.
However, he still found himself two shots behind Sweden’s Robert Karlsson, who carded a 7-under par 65, and Seung-yul Noh of South Korea who shot a 66 for 6-under par.
Only Kaymer or Irishman Graeme McDowell can win the Race to Dubai, and while the German was enjoying himself on the course, McDowell had a less enjoyable time but still managed to finish with a level par 72 after finding himself two-over par after 12 holes. But as is typical of the Irishman, he dug deep to claw his way back.
McDowell needs to finish in at least third place and hope Kaymer fails to make the top-20 if he is to have any chance of wresting the Race to Dubai crown away.
“He kind of left me in the dust literally out there, so it’s great to get away from him and the distraction tomorrow.” McDowell said afterwards. Having been paired with Kaymer for the first round, McDowell will partner big-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros in the second round.
Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee opened with a 4-under par 68 to take fourth place, while it was a welcome return to form for Spaniard Sergio Garcia and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who both went round in 69 to share fifth place with Alejandro Canizares, Charl Schwartzel – who hit a hole-in-one during his round – and Ryder Cup pair Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood, the current world’s number one.
Kaymer could even overtake Lee Westwood with a win this week. The prize purse of £777,00 for winning the tournament is supplemented by the Race to Dubai winner receiving an additional £934,024 bonud, and should Kaymer win, he could leapfrog Westwood to the top of the world pile as well, depending on where Westwood himself finishes.