Ryder Cup team mates Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher are the joint leaders at the halfway stage of the Dubai World Championship presented by DP World.
Fisher stormed to the top of the leaderboard thanks to a flawless eight under par 64 that included eight birdies and equalled the course record set by Lee Westwood twelve months earlier.
Not to be outdone, Poulter – who was playing in the pick of the twoballs alongside World Number One Westwood – carded a six under par 66 to move level with Fisher in the final leg of The Race to Dubai. Poulter got off to a flyer with four consecutive birdies over the first four holes but could only capture two more in his good-natured battle with Westwood that drew the largest galleries of the day.
“We had some early fireworks - it was good fun,” said Poulter who has now gone five of his last six rounds without a bogey. “All four of the birdie putts this morning were kind of two putts - I would say 12-14 feet - and the other two were from six feet.”
While Poulter won the individual battle with Westwood (67) by just one shot, the defending champion is hovering just one shot adrift of the leaders and in good shape to repeat his success of 2009 when he destroyed both the field and the hosting Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
“I think Lee was on another planet with 23 under par last year,” added Poulter. “It's not that easy a golf course. You have to hit it solid off the tee to give yourself a decent look at hitting it close. Twenty three under won't be reached this week.”
For Fisher, the Dubai World Championship offers a chance to make up for missing out on the Race to Dubai title in 2009.
“There’s not so much pressure as last year,” he said. “Then I was fourth coming in and only 14th this year so obviously I had a chance to win (The Race to Dubai) last year, but was going to be very difficult; whereas this year maybe I’m coming in with less expectation and trying to enjoy the week. And it seems to be working so far.”
While overnight leader Robert Karlsson slipped down the order after a disappointing three over par 75, the top of the Dubai World Championship leaderboard features some of the biggest names in golf. Poulter and Fisher are one ahead of Westwood, while Paul Casey is on seven under par alongside Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee and Race to Dubai leader Martin Kaymer. Also in the mix are Ryder Cup stars Francesco Molinari (-6) and Miguel Angel Jimenez (-5) as well as Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen (-5).
“If you were a sponsor of this event you would look at the leaderboard and be rubbing your hands together, wouldn't you?” said Westwood. “You've got the leader of the Race to Dubai up there. You've got the World Number One. Ross Fisher has had a great year. Poults has had a great year. It’s a fantastic leaderboard.”
In terms of The Race to Dubai, it looks as if Graeme McDowell’s dream is over after the Northern Irishman shot a one over par 73 to trail Kaymer by eight shots with two rounds remaining.