Martin Kaymer may have done his best over the first three days of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship to drain all sense of tension and mystery from the final day’s proceedings, but make no mistake, what the German accomplished this week (and Sunday in particular) was nothing short of phenomenal.
Closing with a six-under 66, he managed to extend his already impressive overnight lead of five shots to a positively chasmic eight. By the time his birdie putt on eighteen found the bottom of the hole, he’d gone 69 consecutive holes without a bogey (*insert Tiger Woods pun here*) and dismissed any doubts that remained about his position at the very forefront of his generation’s emergent talent.
Kaymer himself, now second only to Lee Westwood in the world rankings, seemed just as impressed as everyone else:
“It is just a perfect golf course for me… If you win straightaway it is a great start to the season. I hit a lot of fairways and my putting was amazing.”
Kaymer wasn’t the only person left grasping for superlatives to describe his game. Retief Goosen, who shot an impressive, best-of-the-day 64 (in spite of his crutch-like reliance on the belly putter), was disbelieving:
“He’s killing us… I never saw anything above 20-under round here.”
Padraig Harrington, who’s spent the weekend on the range and giving irony-laden ball-marking seminars, weighed in with an interesting comment, one that indicates, perhaps, just how far the spectre of Tiger Woods (now third in the world, of course) has retreated in the minds of his fellow competitors:
“He’s probably the most formidable player in the world when he is leading… He seems to intimidate the rest of the field into believing that if he gets in front he is going to win.”
Meanwhile, Ian Poulter, who failed to make the cut, tweeted to his one-million-plus followers, “Just having a chat with the world No. 1 about the new world No. 2 and we are not sure what course he is playing but it’s not the same we played.”
Rory McIlroy, hardly short on promise himself, ended the day in the same position he began it. His closing 69 may not have been enough to make inroads into Kaymer’s lead, but it was enough to see him two shots clear of the aforementioned Goosen and fellow Northener Graeme McDowell, who closed with a 67. Another Northener, Gareth Maybin, a man for whom I’m predicting a very successful season (you heard it here first!), will be pleased with a tie for fifth.
Big Phil Mickelson’s uneventful week drew to a close with a 70, enough to see him into a tie for thirty-seventh.
So, what do you guys make of the German? Is he bound for the top spot– and if so, for how long?
(AP Photo/Nousha Salimi)