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Wednesday, 07 December 2011
Robert Karlsson  (Getty Images)
Robert Karlsson (Getty Images)
Robert Karlsson is confident he is heading in the right direction as he returns to the scene of his greatest triumph.

The popular Swede, who held off Ian Poulter in a play-off to win last year's Dubai World Championship presented by DP World, has experienced mixed fortunes on both the European and PGA Tours in 2011.

However, a second-place finish at last week's Nedbank Golf Challenge, which was won by Lee Westwood, provided encouragement and Karlsson is now hoping to repeat his memorable victory in this event 12 months ago.

"I was happy with how I played last week. Things have been coming along over the last few weeks," said Karlsson.

"It's been a bit in patches. I played one really good round in Singapore (where he missed the cut in the Barclays Singapore Open despite following an opening 78 with 65 on day two) and then the HSBC (WGC - HSBC Champions in Shanghai) was good as well in patches, but really poor in patches. It was nice to put a good week together last week."

Reflecting on his success in last year's season-ending tournament, Karlsson continued: "It was the biggest win of my career, and obviously it was fantastic to beat such a great player in the play-off. It was a great ending to a season. It was quite good, but all of a sudden it ended up being a great season."

Karlsson is well aware that Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy will command the bulk of the attention this week as they battle it out for the Race to Dubai crown.

Asked whether the length of the course at Jumeirah Golf Estates will favour the young Ulsterman, he replied: " Rory has a huge advantage getting up to the greens (on the par fives), that's just the way it is. But Luke has another weapon that he has been taking himself to the top of the world with, and that's his short game.

"If you look at the par fives, they are very long. I don't know how they are going to set up 18. Yesterday we played it and it felt like a million yards!  But 14 is a long par five, seven is a long par five, and two.

"I don't think Luke can get up on any of them the way they were set up on yesterday, and I think Rory can get on at least three.  So up to the greens, Rory has a huge advantage, but there's more to the game than that."

With the likes of Donald and McIlroy establishing themselves as the leading players in the world, Karlsson, a two-time Ryder Cup player for Team Europe, believes it will be tougher than ever to gain a place on José María Olazábal's team for next year's match in Medinah.

"If you've been in one, you want to be in them all.  That's just the way it is.  But I cannot plan my season to try to qualify for one event in September, especially not with the quality of golfers there are in Europe right now, because you can play your best golf and not get in anyway," he explained.

"I mean, you can pretty much say there's probably four or five places already booked in, so I think it's about 150 players playing for five spots.  You've got to expect that Rory, Luke, (Martin) Kaymer, Westwood, they are pretty much guaranteed on the team.  So it's six spots to play for.  And to play my season to try to steal one of those spots, it's not going to be that easy.

"So I'm going to plan my season like I did the year when I got in.  I planned it the way I wanted to play it and the way that I feel is the best possibility for myself to play my best golf and, if I do that, hopefully I get in that team."

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1QUIROS, AlvaroESP18-19
2LAWRIE, PaulSCO18-17
3DONALD, LukeENG18-16
4HANSON, PeterSWE18-14
5SCHWARTZEL, CharlRSA18-13
T6MOLINARI, FrancescoITA18-12
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