KARLSSON HITS TOP 20

Robert Karlsson has been rewarded for his excellent form by climbing into the world’s top 20, while Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell has slipped out of the top ten.

Karlsson had a 2009 to forget, picking up only one top-25 finish and only making five cuts. However, 2010 has been a different story, with the weekend’s play-off victory over Ian Poulter for the Dubai World Championship being his crowning moment.

US Open champion McDowell was left to rue a poor spell of putting as he lost out to Martin Kaymer in the Race to Dubai and fell to 11th in the world standings. Needing a top-three finish to give himself a chance of topping the money list, one of Europe’s Ryder Cup heroes could only tie for 13th along with Kaymer – leaving the German to finish the year as Europe’s premier golfer.

KARLSSON WINS IN DUBAI

Ian Poulter let the ball slip out of his hand, and with it went the Dubai World Championship, £250,000 and some Wimbledon Tickets!

Sizing up a 30-foot putt in the playoff, Poulter dropped his ball on his marker, moving it and incurring a one-stroke penalty that effectively gave the victory to Sweden’s Robert Karlsson.

The bizarre turn of events Sunday at the $7.5 million, season-ending tournament was the climax of a day which saw as many as four players challenging England’s Poulter for the lead. The 41-year-old Karlsson caught Poulter with a dramatic birdie on the 18th hole after he chipped within a few feet of the pin.

Karlsson calmly rolled in his short putt on the second playoff hole for the victory, his 11th on tour. He earned $1.25 million with the win while Poulter came away with $833,000.

Poulter, a colorful personality on the European Tour best known for his flashy attire, seemed as surprised as anyone by the gaffe. He described afterward how the ball slipped from his hand and fell two or three inches onto the marker – a lucky coin featuring his children’s names – causing it to flip over and move from its original position.

“The coin was one way and the next minute facing the other way,’ Poulter said. “It’s pitched right on the front and flipped over. If it pitches in the middle, the coin doesn’t move and it’s fine. But it’s pitched on the front and it’s flipped over.’

Poulter spotted his error and reported it to the match referee, whose ruling left him with a long putt for par instead of a birdie. The putt came up a foot short, taking all the pressure off Karlsson as he then had two shots to clinch the victory.

“Ian Poulter called me over just after he had marked the ball on the 18th and told me he had dropped his ball onto the ball marker, which caused the ball marker to move, it just flipped over,’ chief match referee Andy McFee said.

Rule 20-1/15 is the one that trapped Poulter.

“Any accidental movement of the ball marker which occurs before or after the specific act of marking, including as a result of dropping the ball, regardless of the height from which it was dropped … results in the player incurring a one stroke penalty,’ McFee said in a statement.

Karlsson, who was made aware of the penalty before Poulter putted, admitted he would have rather not won by default.

“These things happen in golf. It’s not the way you want to win,’ he said. “The rules are there for a reason, but some of them can be tough.’

MACDOWELL BACKS KAYMER

GRAEME McDOWELL last night admitted defeat in the Race to Dubai and hailed Martin Kaymer as the new king of European golf.

The Northern Irishman headed into the Dubai World Championship event with high hopes of pipping Kaymer to top spot.

But he needs to finish first or second to have any chance of denying the German and sits 10 strokes off the lead after the third round.

McDowell played his best round of the week yesterday as a 69 moved him to two under while Kaymer hit a horror 73.

However, the German still sits four strokes ahead of his rival in 11th place and now looks a cert to top the order of merit today.

McDowell said: “Unless I shoot a closing 55 Martin is going to win the Race to Dubai.

“I’ve learned a lot about him in the last couple of months. He’s extremely driven and doesn’t show much emotion.

“Martin is the best and has been one of the top performers in the world this year. He certainly deserves everything he has achieved.”