Sunday, January 23, 2011
Abu Dhabi Championship
Martin Kaymer won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, moving past Tiger Woods into the No. 2 spot in the world rankings.
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – With apologies to Jon Landau, I have seen the future of European golf and his name is Martin Kaymer.
Influential music critic Landau made a similar statement in 1974 after seeing Bruce Springsteen in concert. After watching Kaymer blow away a good field in the $2.7 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, it’s easy to come to a similar conclusion.
This wasn’t a 72-hole tournament. It was really a 54-hole event with a lap of honor tagged on at the end. Kaymer took a five-shot lead into the final round. The party wasn’t quite over, but the lights were dim.
Rory McIlroy’s inclusion in the final two-ball gave the Abu Dhabi galleries hope. It proved false. If the tournament wasn’t really over before they teed off, it ended on the third hole.
McIlroy bogeyed the hole and Kaymer birdied to increase his lead to seven shots.
Game, set and match to the German. McIlroy finished a distant eight shots behind Kaymer.
In truth, McIlroy had no chance. Herr Kaymer doesn’t just do well in the Abu Dhabi tournament. He owns it.
Kaymer’s 24-under-par winning total took his record to 80 under for his 18 rounds at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. It was his ninth European Tour win in three years, and took his earnings to just over 10 million euros -- nearly a tenth of that has come in Abu Dhabi. Kaymer has earned 937,561 euros in five trips to the emirate.
His record in five visits to Abu Dhabi reads: Win, Win, T2, Win and MC (missed cut).
Of all his wins in the UAE’s richest nation-state, this was his most impressive. A good portion of Abu Dhabi oil money went into luring the world’s top stars to the desert. Besides Kaymer, Masters winner Phil Mickelson, U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell and Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen were in the field. World No. 1 Lee Westwood was here, with Padraig Harrington, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and Retief Goosen. This wasn’t just the best field assembled in the championship’s history; it will probably be the best field anywhere in the world this season until the Masters in April.
There’s been an argument raging in European golf for some time over who is the best young player in the game: Kaymer or McIlroy.
Kaymer proved he owns that crown. His nine wins, including last year’s PGA Championship, towers over McIlroy’s two.
Forget the title of best young player. How about best player, period? The German moved to world No. 2 behind Westwood, and it’s the first time Europe has occupied the first two spots since 1993. Coincidentally, an Englishman and a German held those two spots then, with Nick Faldo sitting just ahead of Bernhard Langer.
Germany has waited since 1986 (Langer) for one of its own to sit at the top of world golf. Fans might not have to wait much longer.