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Sometimes belief isn’t enough to make all your dreams come true. But Graeme McDowell will be drawing on all the positive memories of a “dream season” when he tees it up in the Dubai World Championship today chasing his place in the history books.
When you win your first major at an iconic course like Pebble Beach and then withstand even greater pressure to claim the winning point for Europe in the final match of a heart-stopping Ryder Cup, you feel almost bullet-proof.
“To perform under the utmost pressure gives me some extra belief in myself,” McDowell said.
Still, the odds are stacked against him on course tailor-made for a long-hitter and McDowell has no option but to believe that it’s going to be his week. Again.
“I have got to back myself,” McDowell said when asked if he could grab the top-three finish he needs to have any chance of snatching the Race to Dubai from under the nose of the world No 3 Martin Kaymer. “I have got to believe that I can do it this week. I am 100 percent up for it and playing as well as I can possibly be playing and can’t ask for anything more than that.”
McDowell knows that he may need to keep Kaymer out of the top-two to earn enough cash to bridge the €290,000 gap that separates him the 25-year old superstar from Dusseldorf.
If he finishes third, he will need Kaymer to finish outside the top 20 to become European No 1.
As Rory McIlroy pointed out: “Martin is over 290 grand ahead so GMac is going to have to do something very special, as Lee (Westwood) did last year to go past me.
“I can’t see Martin finishing outside the Top 10 or Top 5. So GMac, he’s going to have to finish in the top two if he’s going to win.”
McDowell has a chance to take his season’s earnings beyond €5m if he wins the event as the tournament champion will earn €910,348 with the Race to Dubai winner taking another €1.09m from the €5.6m Bonus Pool that will be divided between the top-15 in the final money list.
McDowell shook his head at the sums involved given the financial meltdown occurring in Ireland. He might be from Northern Ireland but he feels the pain being inflicted south of the border.
“Obviously we feel very fortunate to be in a world where we are playing for a lot of money when you look at what’s going on in the world, especially in Ireland for me,” he said. “The world is a crazy place at the minute.”
He’s aware that giving sponsors a good show is more important than ever in the current economic climate and there will be no shortage of effort on the part of the two protagonists.
After cutting Kaymer’s lead from €1m to just over €290,000 in the space of four weeks, he said: “If you put it in horse racing expressions, he’s had a 25 length lead and I’m coming fast up the inside rail now and we’ve got one fence left and I feel like I’m coming strong.”
With so much at stake, few words were exchanged as McDowell and Kaymer posed for photos with their major trophies earlier this week. The German, for instance, could replace Westwood as world No 1 if he’s first or second and the Englishman is 28th or worse.
“There was definitely a quiet stand off there,” McDowell said. “I can definitely feel from him that he’s extremely driven and he really wants this desperately bad this week.”
Padraig Harrington has won the Order of Merit from behind but he knows that McDowell is doubly handicapped this week
“There’s less pressure on you when you’re chasing but I would still rather be leading by €290,000,” he said. “It’s a big ask because this golf course suits Kaymer well ahead of Graeme. But Graeme is playing the better golf and has done it many times this year.”
McDowell has only had to deal with one big disappointment this year. He made a cameo appearance in the HBO series Entourage after his US Open win but his walk on appearance never made the final show.
“I ended up on the cutting room floor,” McDowell said. “Bummer. The producer, Doug Ellin, called me and said that it was such a last minute thing and the episode was such a serious episode that it didn’t make it. He said they’d love to have me on next season and write me into a proper role.”
No Hollywood script writer could do justice to McDowell’s year if he wins the Race to Dubai here on Sunday. As the best directors say, it’s time for action.