Martin Kaymer has a huge task on his hands this weekend if the young German is to take over Tiger Woods's world No 1 ranking.
Kaymer needs to finish in the top two in the Andalucia Masters tomorrrow night but the 25-year-old from Dusseldorf trails leader Graeme McDowell by 11 shots at the halfway stage and second-placed Gareth Maybin by nine.
A wayward three-over-par 74 by Kaymer left him struggling just to make the cut by one shot on 146, four-over, while his playing partner McDowell produced an exhilarating 67 to lie seven-under after Friday's second round. McDowell has to make up more than €1m on Kaymer on Europe's money list with just five events to go and the US Open champion could whittle off a massive chunk of that deficit this week.
His splendid return of four-under-par for the back nine propelled the Northern Irish Ryder Cup hero not only past his compatriot Maybin but gave a master-class to watching Kaymer. Shots like McDowell's stunning approach to just three inches on the 14th were not in USPGA champion Kaymer's locker.
Kaymer will have to find his range at the Valderrama course, which in 2007 launched his remarkable climb to world number three, if he is to have any chance of preventing Lee Westwood taking over at the summit from Woods.
A series of missed greens and three bogeys in the last five holes, which included a missed three-foot putt on the last, was nothing like the form Kaymer showed when triumphing at Pebble Beach in August. Westwood, at home resting an injured calf, will become world number one if Kaymer does not achieve his top-two goal on Sunday.
McDowell had sympathy for Kaymer, saying: "Martin has not had his best two days, but he is a world-class player and there are still two rounds to go. I am just concentrating on controlling my own game and I will just keep doing what I'm doing for the next couple of days."
Maybin's 68 gives the Ulsterman the chance to thwart his friend McDowell, and claim his maiden European Tour title. He is two strokes better than third-placed Swede Niclas Fasth (66).