x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Martin Kaymer's blemish-free Abu Dhabi victory

German delighted at avoiding a bogey for third consecutive round on way to victory on the National Course.

Martin Kaymer coasted to his third Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship triumph in four years yesterday, finishing with an eight-stroke lead over his nearest rival, Rory McIlroy.
Martin Kaymer coasted to his third Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship triumph in four years yesterday, finishing with an eight-stroke lead over his nearest rival, Rory McIlroy.

ABU DHABI // The Falcon Trophy is Martin Kaymer's to keep after the German coasted to his third Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship triumph in four years yesterday. The way his game is continually improving he could win the replacement trophy as well.

From as early as the third hole yesterday, Kaymer was in cruise control. His birdie then, following one at the second hole, extended his five-shot overnight lead to an overwhelming seven over Rory McIlroy, his playing partner, as the Irish youngster suffered a morale-sapping bogey.

After that the only issues for those following two of the game's most exciting young talents - Kaymer is 26 and McIlroy 21 - was how wide the winning margin would be - it was eight strokes at the end - and whether the champion could continue a bogey-free run which began at his 12th hole on Thursday through to the end of the tournament.

Several times during his victory stroll he threatened to give a shot back to a course which others, including Lee Westwood, the world No 1, have found daunting. On each occasion, though, his powers of recovery and a determination to keep his scorecard unblemished, kept the bogeyman at bay.

Avoiding that bogey was his inspiration on the home stretch when the title was safely won.

"I had never had three rounds in a row without a bogey and it became important to me," Kaymer said. "My only bogey was through a shank on the first day. After that my caddie Craig [Connelly] and I managed to play the course in the perfect way and that is extremely satisfying."

Kaymer's elevation to No 2 in the world means the top two places are held by Europeans for the first time since 1993 when Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer were one-two.

"That shows how strong European golf has become in the last few years," Kaymer said.

Kaymer has his eye on the No 1 spot but acknowledged that Westwood is fully deserving of that honour. "Lee has been as consistent as you can imagine over the last year or so and for me that makes him the best player in the world," he said.

The runaway victory marked Kaymer's 100th appearance in a European Tour fixture since his debut in 2005.

His percentage of titles is impressive: this was his ninth and his fourth in his last eight events which have brought him aggregate earnings of €2.4 million (Dh12m).

The biggest threat to his continued success in Abu Dhabi might prove to be a move away from the National Course rather than improved performances from his rivals.

"No, no, don't do that," he urged those who are considering the merits of the neighbouring Saadiyat Beach and Yas Links courses for future years. "Let them have two tournaments in Abu Dhabi but please keep the first one here."

McIlroy could have been forgiven for collapsing under the weight of Kaymer's birdie blitz but, like last year when he finished a close third to Kaymer, the young Ulsterman hung on grimly to take a commendable second place in a stellar field of big winners.

After managing only level par for his outward nine, McIlroy had two US Open champions - the holder Graeme McDowell and dual winner Retief Goosen - breathing down his neck at the turn.

It was testimony to McIlroy's more professional approach to the new campaign that he refused to give up when the title was beyond him and instead pressed the accelerator to surge clear of those pursuing him.

McDowell, second to Kaymer in last year's Race to Dubai, had to settle for a share of the third prize with Goosen, who overtook 11 of the 14 players ahead of him at the start of play by posting the joint best round of the week - an eight-under-par 64.

 

wjohnson@thenational.ae