McDowell can pass Kaymer and win Race to Dubai, says pal McIlroy

graeme mcdowell, rory mcilroy
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Rory Mcilroy (right) can speak from experience about the pressure his friend and fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell is feeling in his quest to come from behind and win the European money title.
By
Gary Rose
PA Sport

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Rory McIlroy believes fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell still has a great chance of winning the Race to Dubai over Martin Kaymer.

Both McIlroy and McDowell will play at the UBS Hong Kong Open this week, with McDowell trailing Kaymer by about $500,000 on the European Tour money list.

While a win would not be enough to send McDowell top of the standings, it would put him within touching distance ahead of the season-ending Dubai World Championship next week.

McDowell has enjoyed the best season of his career, having won his first major at the U.S. Open and playing a vital role in Europe's Ryder Cup win over America. And McIlroy is confident his best friend on the tour can cap a perfect year by finishing as Europe's No. 1.

"Graeme has been playing great, Martin has as well, but I think Graeme has got the edge a little bit," said the 21-year-old McIlroy. "He is finishing strong and hopefully he can go and do it."

McIlroy knows exactly what McDowell is going through at the moment, having been in the same position himself just 12 months ago. The Ulsterman was behind Lee Westwood in the 2009 Race to Dubai and his second-place finish in Hong Kong was enough to move him top of the order.

However, Westwood went on to win the Dubai World Championship to be crowned Europe's No. 1, and McIlroy believes the fact McDowell cannot supplant Kaymer in Hong Kong regardless of how he performs could actually work in his favor.

"I was chasing Lee (Westwood) here this time last year and I finished second and went above him," McIlroy explained. "It was nearly a bad thing though because when you are chasing, more than likely all you think about is trying to win tournaments."

McIlroy, meanwhile, has his own reasons for wanting to perform well this week as he looks to make it third time lucky at the tournament.

Having lost out to Lin Wen-tang in a playoff in 2008 and then finishing second to Gregory Bourdy last year, McIlroy is more determined than ever to claim only the second European Tour win of his career.

"This year hasn't been as successful as I wanted it to be," he said. "I felt as though I played good enough to have a couple more wins but that's the way golf goes sometimes. I love Hong Kong and I love coming back here. I know the golf course well and I feel I've got a good idea of what I need to this week to try and get that win here."