Poulter eyes back-to-back wins in Dubai

DUBAI: Britain`s Ian Poulter boosted his bid for back-to-back victories by snatching a two-stroke lead after the Dubai World Championship third round on Saturday while German Martin Kaymer all but wrapped up the money-list crown.

Last week`s Hong Kong Open winner carded a three-under 69 at the Dubai season-ender for a 12-under total of 204, two ahead of fellow countryman and playing partner Ross Fisher (71), Italian Francesco Molinari (68) and Thailand`s Thongchai Jaidee (69).

One stroke further adrift were world number one Lee Westwood (71) and Swede Robert Karlsson (67).

Kaymer found water with his approach shot and double-bogeyed the par-five 18th but was still poised to finish the year as Europe`s number one.

The 25-year-old, who has a lead of 290,000 euros ($384,600) over second-placed Graeme McDowell in the money-list, wound up with a 73 for 210.

Briton McDowell, who will probably need to win this week`s tournament to overhaul Kaymer in the Race to Dubai, was four strokes adrift of the German after shooting a 69.

Up for grabs for Kaymer and McDowell, the only two players who can top the money-list, is a $1.26 million cheque for winning the tournament plus a $1.5 million bonus for finishing the season as Europe`s number one.

"It looks like I have won the Race to Dubai which is nice," Kaymer told reporters on another day of glorious sunshine in the Gulf.

"There have been a lot legends who have been number one in Europe -- Seve Ballesteros won a few times and Colin Montgomerie -- and to be compared with them is the biggest honour you can get," added Kaymer.

"This year has been by far my best. I played in the Ryder Cup and we won, I won a major (at the U.S. PGA Championship) and won at St Andrews (Dunhill Links

It has been an excellent year all round for Europe and world number 11 Poulter has been among the best performers, featuring prominently in last month`s Ryder Cup triumph and lifting the WGC-Accenture Match Play title in Arizona in February.

"This would be right up there just behind Tucson if I won," said the confident Englishman who was sporting maroon tartan trousers.

"The 2004 Volvo Masters (in Spain) was probably my next biggest win after the Match Play and I think this would certainly pip that. It has become a bigger event and it means more."

Poulter`s third-round lead would have been trimmed to one stroke, however, if Fisher had not emulated Kaymer by finding water with his approach at the last.

"It was a shame because I was trying to get to 12-under and that would have put me level with `Poults` going into tomorrow," said Fisher after making a six at the last.

"Unfortunately my second shot didn`t quite come off and I was left with an impossible fourth."

Trickier pin positions, grainy greens and a different wind direction made it tougher for the players than it was when low scores abounded on Friday.

Fisher said Ryder Cup team mate Poulter would be hard to overhaul in the final round.

"In my eyes he is one of the best putters in the world," said the Irish Open champion. "I have been fortunate enough to witness it in Ryder Cups and World Cups.

"He has obviously got sky-high confidence after Hong Kong so he will be a tough man to beat."

Westwood is competing for only the second time in seven weeks due to a long-term leg injury and there were signs of rust on Saturday.

"I kept giving myself a lot of birdie chances and nothing would go in," said the Englishman. "I had to hit some good shots coming in just to make the couple of birdies which kept me in the tournament.

"With how rusty I am and how many shots I`ve squandered through lack of competitiveness I am surprised I will still have a chance on Sunday."

Kaymer can overtake Westwood at the top of the world rankings if he wins the tournament and Westwood is lower than second, or if the German comes second and the Briton is outside the top 27.

Bureau Report