The two major champs appeared likely to contend through 54 holes, as Kaymer shared the lead with Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Johnson was among a group one shot off the pace. Instead, they watched from the anchor group as Pablo Larrazabal and eventual winner Tommy Fleetwood raced past them and had a duel of their own down the stretch.
Kaymer has won this event three times before, but Abu Dhabi was also the site of one of his most bitter defeats in 2015, when he let a 10-shot lead slip away during the final round. The German again started strong, with birdies on four of his first eight holes, but he quickly gave back those gains with bogeys on Nos. 9, 10 and 13.
Kaymer was four shots back playing the final hole, where his eagle gave him a share of fourth place alongside Aphibarnrat and Bernd Wiesberger. His last worldwide victory remains the 2014 U.S. Open.
For Johnson, it was a solid debut in his first tournament appearance, as the world No. 3 reportedly struggled for much of the week with jet lag. But like Kaymer, he let a prime opportunity slip away as he sought to succeed Rickie Fowler as the latest American to win the event.
Johnson made only one birdie over his first 12 holes, and a bogey on the par-3 15th hole that he had birdied each of the previous two days proved especially costly. He rallied to play his last three holes in 3 under, but that effort still left him tied for second with Larrazabal, one shot behind Fleetwood.