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Dubai betting preview
By David John Last updated: 23rd November 2010
Graeme McDowell can continue his remarkable late-season form by winning the Dubai World Championship, says Dave John.
Four players went into last year's Dubai World Championship with a chance to win the European Tour's inaugural Race To Dubai.
This time we are down to just two - Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell.
Kaymer looked almost untouchable after his win at the Dunhill Links Championship in early October but McDowell has been superb over the last month to haul himself back to within 290,910 euros of the German thanks to a win at Valderrama and high finishes in Singapore and Hong Kong.
The US Open champion now needs at least a top-three finish - depending on what Kaymer does - to have a chance of putting his nose in front right on the winning line.
Vitally, he feels he is still at the top of his form despite a punishing schedule and constantly being in contention.
He revealed after his fifth place in Hong Kong: "I have a few things to brush up on before Thursday, but, all in all, I have been driving the ball great, which is key to next week, and I'm feeling really good about my game.
"I'm playing well enough to win next week and that's all I can ask."
I am inclined to believe him as well and at 15/1 he has to be a serious contender for the title.
You will have to give McDowell the benefit of the doubt after he only finished T30 in the event 12 months ago after an opening 76.
But he did play the final 54 holes in seven under par and there is no question his game is in a totally different dimension now.
He knows that whatever happens, this has been a breakout year thanks to that first major, two other titles and his Ryder Cup heroics.
Coming up short would hardly be deemed a failure and that laid- back approach to the game seems to serve him particularly well.
Followers of the Bettingzone will be on Kaymer at 8/1 for the Race To Dubai and he currently trades at 1/8.
Like McDowell, 2010 has been little short of remarkable for the German, who also claimed his first major title at the USPGA in August as well as three other wins on the European Tour.
Kaymer boasts a sensational record playing golf in the Middle East and is 12/1 to take the title but I was just a little bit put off by some of his quotes from the event last year.
He said: "It is not really my type of course and it is not one of my favourites.
"You can't really see the golf course all the time and can't see the surface of the putting green when you are in the fairway."
Certainly not the most positive approach to the four days with such a lot at stake and perhaps his modest T37 in 2009 - one shot behind McDowell - was as much down to him still feeling the effects of the foot injury that ruled him out for much of the second half of the campaign that season.
But, just like McDowell, his game has gone into the stratosphere and he will have the added incentive of potentially usurping Lee Westwood as world number one if results go his way.
To sum up, Kaymer may not relish the course but expect his usual Teutonic diligence in a bid to achieve his goal.
Westwood took this field apart last year with a six-shot success on his way to being crowned Europe's number one.
Back to full fitness now having been sidelined with a calf problem, you can hardly argue he is in any worse form this time around and looks certain to make a stout defence.
That said, a best price of 7/1 leaves very little margin for error against the calibre of rivals on top of their game.
Ian Poulter is on a hot streak currently as well following a fine effort in Singapore with a near-flawless win in Hong Kong that contained just two dropped shots all week, both in the final round.
He is dangerous in this sort of mood and should be in there pitching for his third title of 2010.
But I am going to put up McDowell's compatriot Rory McIlroy, who has gone close on a number of occasions but remains winless in Europe this year.
The spotlight was very much on the 21-year-old 12 months ago as he was one of the players in the mix for the Race To Dubai but he has no such concerns this time around.
He put up a pretty bold bid to be fair, but was never going to catch Westwood as it worked out and I just have a feeling he could be the one to beat at 12/1 - two points bigger than he was in 2009.
He has close connections with Dubai as one of his sponsors are Jumeirah Hotel And Resorts while his sole victory on the European Tour remains the Dubai Desert Classic of 2009.
While the enthusiasm of youth means he is still capable of the odd head-scratching error in a round, his natural ability consistently puts him in a winning position - which he will take sooner rather than later.
And you can't say he is not due a title having posted seven top-six finishes throughout the season in Europe.
I am going to refer back to some of Kaymer's quotes from last year for a third and final pick this week.
The German said pre-tournament in 2009: "It is all about the short game this week. There are a lot of slopes and ridges on the greens and you have to be very precise with your irons."
The top six players last year were all inside the top 10 for Putts Per GIR and if there is an emphasis again on short-game prowess then there are few better exponenets than Luke Donald.
He is the top man in Europe statistically in Putts Per GIR, Putts Per Round, Scrambles and Sand Saves and he looks to have every chance of hitting the frame like he did in the HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
That effort was all the more creditable considering he was suffering from a sinus infection and Donald admitted he had to dig in deep to his reserves in his final round of 73.
It paid off with an excellent third place so expect a strong showing now he is back firing at full fitness.
He progressed round by round here last year - 73-72-71-70 - and I do have a slight doubt with the length of the course as it measures in at over 7,600 yards.
But Donald finds ways to compensate to make him competitive and he is an each-way punters delight - so take some of the 18/1 on offer.
1.5pts e.w. Graeme McDowell at 15/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 Paddy Power). Outstanding in pursuit of Kaymer and set for one final big week.
1.5pts e.w. Rory McIlroy at 12/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 general). Strong links with the area and certainly due a title in Europe.
1.5pts e.w. Luke Donald at 18/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 sportingbet). Gutsy effort in Shanghai and solid claims to reach the frame at least.
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