By Brian Keogh
As Germany's Martin Kaymer took a giant step towards superstardom with a four-stroke, wire-to-wire victory in the Abu Dhabi Championship, Ireland's Paul McGinley was far from satisfied with his first top-10 finish on the European Tour for 15 months.
A closing one-under par 71 left the 40 year old Dubliner in a share of ninth place on eight-under par while Open champion Padraig Harrington and Holywood's Rory McIlroy closed with 68s to tie for 11th, eight strokes adrift of the 23-year old German champion on seven-under par .
Though Darren Clarke (73) and Damien McGrane (75) finished near the back of the field it was a good week all round for the Irish contingent with Dubliner Peter Lawrie clinching a top 20 finish thanks to a final round 69.
But while "Rookie of the Year" Kaymer celebrated a maiden tour victory over Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood that looked far from certain after a hat-trick of early bogeys, McGinley left the course feeling that his putting had cost him a great chance of overall victory.
Chasing his fourth successive Ryder Cup cap this year, McGinley said: "I played nicely, three bogeys in four rounds and two of them were three putts.
"So I've obviously got to be pleased with my finish, that bit, but not with the putting. I'm not going to walk away contented by this.
"Certainly it is a good step in the right direction but my golf was better than my finishing position. I haven't made any changes to my game."
McGinley's last top-10 came in the 2006 Mallorca Classic, where he was tied for sixth.
But while he hit 60 of the 72 greens in regulation, the Dubliner was not slapping himself on the back for his performance on the greens after taking 33 putts for the second time in four rounds.
Six-figure cheques are what he is looking for and after banking €28,673 to go to 40th in the European Ryder Cup Points list, he refused to get overexcited.
McGinley warned: "It is a long season and this is a step in the right direction. But I certainly won't be taking the foot off the gas and be 100 per cent delighted because I left a lot of shots out there in that tournament. The way I played, I was good enough to win."
Kaymer had more bogeys and hit fewer greens than McGinley. But his six-stroke overnight advantage proved to be too much of an obstacle to the chasing pack as he closed with a two over par 74 and still won with four shots to spare.
"This is an unbelievable feeling," said Kaymer, who stumbled with three bogeys in a row from the fourth before birdies at the 10th and the final hole sealed a comfortable win worth €225,421 that moved him to ninth in the Ryder Cup European Points List.
"The back nine was tough especially with players like Stenson and Westwood chasing me. I was struggling a bit on the front nine but I just tried to stick to my game plan and hit fairways and greens.
"For those guys to catch me they had to make birdies and I really tried to stay patient and just try to make pars. It is not always an easy thing to do but I was very proud of the way I handled myself and I am thrilled the way today worked out."
New Order of Merit leader Westwood had a chance to get within a shot of Kaymer with five to play but missed a 10 footer at the 13th and then bogeyed the last while Stenson blamed his lack of confidence with the driver as he closed with a 71.
But there were few complaints from Harrington, whose neck injury eased sufficiently for him to storm through from 41st at halfway to 11th.
Pushed on my his desire to grab his sixth successive top-10 finish, Harrington explained the he twice experimented with his putting grip during the week and hopes to be far sharper when he tees it up in the AT&T National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach in two weeks' time.
"My neck is actually quite stiff at the moment and probably needs a little bit of rest at this stage." he said. "It was definitely impeding me yesterday but not today.
"I was pushing hard to get a top 10 because I haven't been outside the top-10 since September. I was kind of thinking of that. I don't know if it's enough but it kept me going out there and definitely was an incentive. It kept me pushing.
"I didn't play great but I putted better today. I got the ball in the hole better which was nice. It's kind of what you expect as you play a few more rounds.
"I'd a few silly shots here and there each day but that would be expected first tournament out but overall it's been a good week, a good time too to come out too in my practice because it kind of shows up where I am.
"I've another two weeks to go home now and try out stuff that appeared this week, whereas if I'd gone playing next week (in San Diego) the emphasis would have been on the score rather than on maybe working on a few little details.
"It's good to get out and see the bunker play has improved. That's a positive because I've been working on that. Chipping was fine and I changed my grip coming in putting wise and I'd a new change again today. It's always good to come and see how something like that works out on the golf course. "
As for his neck, which required on-course attention during the second round, he added: "In two days time, I don't envisage it even being here. I do a huge amount of work on my shoulder stability and shoulder strength that when this problem recurs, as it will, that it doesn't take me two to three weeks to recover from it, as it did a few years ago.
"The balance is good everywhere else and the strength is good so it doesn't break down in a chain. Once or twice a year it goes. I just have to hope it doesn't happen in a big week."