ABU DHABI // Martin Kaymer has never met his German compatriot Michael Schumacher but he certainly played the part to his great cost last year when performing as exhilaratingly in a go-kart as the seven-time world champion does in a Formula One car.
Kaymer's high-speed accident in the US when pushing for the lead at a track in Scottsdale, Arizona, resulted in two broken toes and cost him the lead in a much more important race: the one to Dubai, to determine the outcome of the European Tour's newly sponsored money list. By the time Kaymer had allowed the two fractures to heal, Rory McIlroy and the eventual winner, Lee Westwood, had surged past him in the US$7.5million (Dh27.5m) Race.
Kaymer still made the concluding leg on the Earth Course in November but found his game did not suit the lay-out devised by former world No 1 Greg Norman. The National Course in Abu Dhabi is a completely different matter for the cavalier style of Kaymer. He loves it here and is determined to become one of the capital's favourite adopted sons this afternoon when he seeks to convert a narrow third-round lead into a second victory in this tournament.
"I tend to feel very comfortable here," said Kaymer, after a third successive round of 67 earned him a one-stroke lead. "I like everything about the place and always look forward to coming here. For most of us the tournament comes round after a long break so you arrive feeling really motivated and can't wait to play golf again." Kaymer had that impatient feeling as he licked his wounds after that go-kart crash. Not the type to press the brake, he found himself having "no chance" to avoid a female competitor in front of him.
"Nothing against the girl," he emphasised, "but all I could do was crash into her." That left him watching his stash of euros earned in what had been a productive year grind to a halt on the run-in to the Race to Dubai. "It was disappointing not being able to consolidate my position at the top of the money list but I can't complain too much," he said. "I still had a chance to win it at the end but didn't play well enough on the day."
Kaymer, 25, has another successful young UAE visitor, Rory McIlroy, 20, for company for what promises to be the moment of reckoning with Ian Poulter, who led the field after the first round, earning the right to join them in the final threeball after a battling 67 yesterday. McIlroy, who also had a 67 to take his aggregate score to 14-under par, will be seeking to hold two of the region's trophies at the same time, having celebrated his maiden tournament victory in the Dubai Desert Classic just under a year ago.
"A lot has happened since Dubai last year but I still haven't won another tournament, so I'm starting to put pressure on myself to do so," said the Ulsterman. "Looking at my last few final rounds I have been pretty good. I had a 63 in China, a 64 in Hong Kong and a 67 in Dubai so if I can maintain that record, I'll have a good chance." Not so long ago, Poulter was considered as a bright new prospect. Now he finds himself, at the age of 34, playing the role of elder statesmen among the title contenders.
The Englishman is bullish about his chances of following up his victory in Singapore, which came at the end of an extended break, with another success here after a similar lay-off. "I feel the same freshness, which is good news," he said, after following up his leading 65 on Thursday with a solid 67. "Sometimes at a busy time in the season I start to feel tired coming down the final few holes but that's not the case here.
"I'm wide awake. I feel strong and I'm in a nice position. "Obviously the adrenaline is there and I'm hoping to make all that work for me." email@example.com Coverage of the final day's play on Showsports 3 from 1pm