Golf: Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer aiming high

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TWO of Europe’s Ryder Cup heroes are determined to upstage Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, the world No 1 and No 2, in the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship starting today.

Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer both headed into their first event of 2013 feeling confident they could get in the mix up against the star duo and new Nike stablemates in the UAE capital.

Rose, the world No 5, ended 2012 on a high despite being pipped by McIlroy in the season-ending Dubai World Championship. The Englishman signed off with a 62 only for McIlroy to birdie the last five holes to win by two strokes.

“I didn’t win but, in my mind, it felt I did due to the way I executed the shots. I felt I did everything I had to to win the tournament,” reflected Rose.

It was, he added, one of three “positive experiences” last season that convinced him he has the “tools and skills” to compete on a regular basis against the likes of McIlroy and Woods.

“The Ryder Cup was big for me,” said the man who holed two crucial putts – one of them a monster across the green at the 17th at Medinah – to beat Phil Mickelson in his Sunday singles. “So, too, was winning the event in Turkey [the inaugural World Golf Final]. I know it was a casual type of environment but it was still going head-to-head with the world’s best.”

While Rose is ready to go head-to-head with some of them again this week, he’s not even going to try to match either McIlroy or Woods in terms of status. “I think status and how someone is performing are two very different things,” he insisted. “I think status is something I’m a long way from. But I believe my game is not that far at all.”

Kaymer, a winner of this event three times, who partners McIlroy and Woods in today’s opening round, was also looking to lay down a marker for the new season.

“I’m here to win the title for the fourth time,” said the German, who holed the putt that retained the Ryder Cup for Europe in Chicago before going on to end his season with victory in the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa.

Kaymer, who has taken out PGA Tour membership for the first time in his career, struggled with his game for most of last season after making some swing changes but is back in the groove. “I have changed a lot over the last two years and I learned a lot about myself,” he added. “I still have to work on a lot of things but I feel I’m ready to compete against the best.”

Also in the field bidding to win a first prize of just under £280,000 are Open champion Ernie Els and American Ryder Cup player Jason Dufner.