ABU DHABI // Englishman Ian Poulter, having succumbed to Martin Kaymer on the final hole at the Abu Dhabi Championship yesterday, can take consolation from confirmation that his battling 20-under-par performance at the National Course sees him ranked in the world's top 10 for the first time in his career. The 34-year-old missed a birdie putt on the 18th to finish yesterday on six-under, one stroke behind the two-time Abu Dhabi champion Kaymer.
Rory McIlroy finished in third place on 19-under, resulting in Poulter displacing the Northern Irishman as world No 10. "It's a nice start to the season," said Poulter, an eight-time winner on the European Tour. "If you're going to take the positives out though, I'm pretty frustrated that I've walked away shooting that score and I haven't won. "It was a good day's golf; no bogeys and I played solid. It was a shame I just pulled my tee shot a bit on the last. But Martin's played well. He's played very solid, he was in front, shot six-under and that's always going to be hard to beat."
Poulter, who bases himself in Orlando and spends much of the year playing on the PGA Tour, says yesterday's leaderboard proves the European Tour is growing in strength. "If you look at the world ranking position of the guys in the top 50 from Europe, I think they are pushing a lot of weight right now," he said. "It bodes well for the Ryder Cup and, if some of the rookies can make the side, that gives Colin [Montgomerie] less of a headache. It's going to be a fun September and October."
McIlroy for his part showed great potential and determination to keep fighting when it appeared a lost cause. Trailing the leader by three strokes, birdies on the 15th and 17th sent the 20-year-old down the final stretch with a glimmer of hope and while an unlikely result was not to be, he says he is encouraged by the display in his first tournament of the new season. "I gave it my best shot and it's not like I went out in the last group and shot level par," he said. "I went out and shot a really good score in the conditions and it just wasn't good enough. But Martin played great and he gave the crowd some pleasure, which is nice."