US Open champion Graeme McDowell is upbeat about his chances making a late run for the European money title as he heads to this week’s UBS Hong Kong Open.
The Ulsterman tied for third behind Adam Scott in the Barclays Singapore Open, cutting Martin Kaymer’s lead at the top of the Race to Dubai standings to just €367,600 with two big money events remaining.
Three putts on par five 18th at Sentosa GC in Singapore on Monday morning cost McDowell over €130,000 in prize money. But after moving past Rory McIlroy to a career high of ninth in the world, he was still looking on the bright side as he bids to round off a memorable season by becoming just the second Ulsterman to become European No 1 following Ronan Rafferty in 1989.
“I was disappointed to have finished on a sour note there,” said McDowell, who hit the 18th green in two but left his eagle putt eight feet short and missed for birdie. “I hit two decent shots and walked off for five but that’s golf. It has been a very productive week and I certainly accepted that.
“It’s still a great week for me. I’m playing in Hong Kong and Martin is not. I’m still very happy with my game, very positive about how I’ve been swinging the club this week and I hope to take this great form to Hong Kong.”
With over €300,000 for the winner, the $2.5m UBS Hong Kong Open offers McDowell the chance to head to next week’s $7.5m Dubai World Championship with an excellent chance of becoming European No 1.
“All golfers have goals and, post Pebble Beach, my two main goals for the year were to play and win The Ryder Cup and then to win The Race to Dubai,” said McDowell. “I was lucky enough to get the first one done and the second one is the reason that I am playing five weeks in a row at the end of the season.
“I have always said I want to get to Dubai within touching distance of Martin and where a win in the tournament would mean I would win The Race to Dubai. That hasn’t changed and hopefully I can continue to make inroads this week in Hong Kong.”
“I didn’t drive the ball well at Jumeirah last year but I feel like I’ve made big steps in my golf game this year, especially my driving, so I’m looking forward to going to Dubai again and see how it sets up for this year.
“I feel really privileged to be in this position, going into the Dubai World Championship. Obviously a big week is required in Hong Kong to be as close to Martin as I can going there, considering the season he has had. So I’ll be trying my hardest to do just that.”
McDowell’s rivals will include pal Rory McIlroy, who is now ranked one place behind his countryman at 10th in the latest world rankings.
The 21-year old spent last week at home recovering from a chest infection before watching ringside as world heavweight champion David Haye retained his WBA title with a three-round stoppage of Audley Harrison in Manchester on Saturday night.
And he insists that he has “unfinished business” in Hong Kong, where he has finished second for the past two years.
In 2008 he lost in a play-off to Lin Wen-tang and returned last year to finish two shots behind winner Grégory Bourdy with a closing 64.