Kaymer targets Tiger Woods crown
The most prominent head cover in Martin Kaymer's golf bag is a pale, white tiger — but the quality of the German's play and that steely cold look in his eye, especially on Sunday afternoon at tournaments, are just like the real thing.
So it came as absolutely no surprise yesterday when Kaymer held off Rory McIlroy and completed his third win in four years at The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a ruthlessly cool and efficient final round 66. And how appropriate that Kaymer's record-breaking romp to a fourth victory in eight European Tour events since last August's US PGA, should lift the 26-year-old ahead of Tiger Woods into second place on the world ladder.
It's the first time two Europeans have sat atop the global rankings since July 1993, when Nick Faldo and Kaymer's boyhood idol Bernhard Langer were on top of the world. Of course, Lee Westwood is current World No 1 but, with respect to the wonderfully consistent Englishman, it seems only a matter of time before Kaymer, by far the most imposing and accomplished under-30 on the planet, edges past him.
There was plenty for Ireland to cheer in Abu Dhabi. McIlroy was just one of three Ulstermen in the top-five. Graeme McDowell went into a well-earned four-week break in a tie for second with hard-charging Retief Goosen (64), while Gareth Maybin (69) pocketed 77,647 euros in fifth with David Lynn (72).
McDowell's final round 67 earned him 112,960 euros and copper-fastened outright fourth in the world, a ranking he'd shared with Phil Mickelson last week.
Mickelson, now sixth just behind Steve Stricker in global charts after a tepid tie for 37th on his Middle Eastern debut, correctly pointed out yesterday that greatness in golf is not measured in world ranking points but by one's performance at the Majors.
Yet Europe's domination of the world game, with no fewer than seven players in the current world top 12, will chafe with those who promote the US Tour, by far the biggest and wealthiest of the world's professional circuits.
As cool as he is on the course, Kaymer is sublimely level-headed off it too.
“It is quite nice to overtake somebody you regard as the best player that has ever lived,” said Kaymer. “We'll see how long it takes for Tiger to overtake me again but it makes me very proud to be in front of him for a little bit.
“Graeme McDowell almost every week gave himself a chance to win at tournaments, while it's only a matter of time that Rory McIlroy wins a big, big tournament somewhere. He'll win plenty of Majors. It's just nice to see European golf getting better and better.”
At the finish, Abu Dhabi's defending champion led McIlroy by eight strokes, the largest winning margin on the European Tour since Damien McGrane won by nine at the 2008 Volvo China Open.
McIlroy, who is up to seventh in the world after his closing 69, said: “After the first few holes I was just trying to consolidate second place. Martin played so well this week, I don't think there's anyone in the world who could've topped him here.”