Kaymer opens five-shot lead in Abu Dhabi

Martin Kaymer during the final round of the KLM Open.

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Only Rory McIlroy can stop the $2.7 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship from turning into a three-round tournament with a lap of honor.

All thanks to a 229-yard, 3-iron to the 18th green that allowed the young Northern Irishman to hole a 30-foot eagle putt. That stroke of genius helped him to a 7-under-par 65 and gives him a chance to catch the king of Abu Dhabi, Martin Kaymer.

The German is 18-under-par for the three rounds and holds a five shot over McIlroy. Normally it would be a foregone conclusion that Kaymer would stroll to victory. McIlroy getting within touching distance at least gives fans a modicum of hope that there’s still a golf tournament being played, rather than a glorified exhibition round.

Kaymer will be hard to beat. He is defending champion and also won here in 2008. More impressively, he is 74-under-par for his 17 rounds at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

He also has an added incentive in the final round. He can get to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win.

No wonder he’s in pole position with a round to go. Most daunting for McIlroy is that he can still shoot 66 even when he isn’t quite up to his best.

“The great thing is I’ve only made one bogey all week,” Kaymer said. “For some reason the golf course likes me, and I get away with a few shots.”

McIlroy is well aware of the task he’s up against.

“He’ll be very tough to beat,” McIlroy said. “He seems so solid out there. He’s very comfortable with the lead and he’s shown that over the past couple of years. I’ll have to go out and play very similar to the way I did today if I want to have any sort of a chance.”

When HSBC shelled out the best part of nearly $5.5 million to lure the top players here – $2.7 million in prize money and around the same in appearance fees – they were hoping for a Sunday full of marquee names. The likes of Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter might be out of the running or out of the tournament, but a Kaymer/McIlroy final pairing is the stuff of corporate dreams.

These are the best two young players in Europe by a long margin. Kaymer has eight European Tour wins in the last two years, including last year’s PGA Championship. McIlroy hasn’t quite measured up to that standard yet, but he’s still notched up a European Tour win, a PGA Tour victory and has come close in the majors.

“I think it’s going to be a great challenge tomorrow,” Kaymer said. “He is not going to back up. He will go for everything. I’m leading by five now, yes, but everybody knows Rory can shoot 5, 6 under the first nine holes. It will definitely be a great round.”

Those who come out to watch the final round will be hoping Kaymer’s words come true. The tournament is Kaymer’s to lose and McIlroy’s to win. Only the precocious genius that is Rory McIlroy can save the final round from becoming a stroll in the desert.

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