Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer share European Tour Player of the Year award
European Ryder Cup skipper Colin Montgomerie had to make some of the toughest decisions in the competition’s history this year ... first with his wild card picks and every day at Celtic Manor with his pairings.
Fudging is not an option for Ryder Cup captains, so it was interesting to hear what Monty made of the unprecedented decision by an eight man committee to award the European Tour Player of the Year Award jointly to Germany’s Martin Kaymer and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell.
In fact, Montgomerie heartily approved.
“It was very difficult,” he told the Tour's annual Player of the Year luncheon in London.
“I believe there's eight on the panel, it was four all and you couldn't split them. That's why it's shared and I think it's only right in many ways to share this award. It would be wrong almost to give one ahead of the other.”
Interestingly, the committee of golf writers and broadcasters made their decision before last Sunday's thrilling climax to the Chevron World Challenge, when McDowell gave tournament host Tiger Woods a four strokes start on his ‘home' course and beat him in a play-off.
That was the Portrush man's fourth tournament victory of the season, matching the four won by Kaymer on the European schedule as he pipped McDowell in the Race to Dubai.
Yet if the German topped Europe's Order of Merit, McDowell effectively won the Ryder Cup ... and even though they both secured their first Major title in 2010, the Ulsterman's feat in lifting the US Open trophy at Pebble Beach was simply stunning.
“I mean Graeme, for what he did,” Monty enthused: “the first Brit to win the US Open for 40 years ... then his performance in delivering not just the golfing moment of the summer at Pebble Beach but the sporting moment of the year in claiming that final point for us to win the Ryder Cup.”
Mongomerie had more reason than most to be grateful for McDowell's emergence this year as a formidable force in world golf. He gave McDowell the greatest imaginable vote of confidence at Celtic Manor when he sent him out at No 12 for the singles.
Asked yesterday why he'd opted for McDowell in that role, the European captain retorted: “Just in case! Graeme is such a confident figure, it was just in case it all came down to that last match. If we were going to win late, I needed someone of his calibre, of his stature now, to come through.
“More importantly, believe it or not, it was because of his win in the Wales Open at Celtic Manor. Forget the US Open, I know from personal experience that you feel one-up when you come back to play on a golf course where you've won before.”
McDowell's development from Ryder Cup hopeful at the start of the year to one of the cornerstones of the European team has been remarkable.
“Graeme would have been borderline at the start of the year, I think he'd admit that much himself,” Montgomerie continued.
“Yet he grew and matured so much through the season to the point where he and Poulter were the two most confident players on that team.”
In truth, it was neck-and-neck between Kaymer and McDowell throughout a season which Montgomerie described “as the most successful by far for European golf in my 24 years as a member of this fine Tour.
“One feels sorry, almost, for Lee Westwood. I mean, my God, we have the World No 1 for the first time in many, many years and he's not even quoted,” said the captain.
“And Louis Oosthuizen wins The Open by seven shots at St Andrews, a dramatic victory, and just got a Golfer of the Month Award.”
Kaymer and McDowell both were delighted to share the spoils. “Graeme had pretty much the same success as I had and he deserves this recognition as much as I do,” said Kaymer, the first German ‘Player of the Year' since his boyhood idol Bernhard Langer won the inaugural award in 1985.
“I'm truly humbled by this award, it is the icing on the cake in a very special year for me,” said McDowell from Florida, where he teams up with Darren Clarke in this week's Shark Shoot-out.