Martin Kaymer ended the run of first-time winners lifting the sport’s top trophies and lifted himself above the crowd when he won the WGC-HSBC Champions. Shooting a record low winning round for the World Golf Championships, the German’s nine birdies in his last nine holes propelled him over a leader board packed with recent WGC and Major winners and past overnight leader Fredrik Jacobson to a nine-under-par 63 final round and a three-shot victory. Tim Maitland reports.
“To shoot 63 in a final round is always great, but on a golf course like this and in a World Golf Championships is obviously special. The way I played was different. It was really special," recalled Kaymer.
"I can’t remember a day when I played golf like this. My putting was outstanding," said 26-year-old Kaymer, who, having won the 2010 PGA Championship becomes the first of golf’s new breed to follow up his first big breakthrough win with another top-level victory.
Kaymer’s late charge lifted him above a leader board that seemed to have most of the contenders to the crown of being the game’s next dominant player. Reigning US Open champion Rory McIlroy and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel finished tied for fourth along with Paul Casey while 2010 US Open winner Graeme McDowell came third.
“If Martin Kaymer had not skipped the last couple of holes, we might all have had a chance,” joked the Northern Irishman, who got to see some of Kaymer’s fireworks from the group behind.
“He's an unbelievable frontrunner; when he gets a sniff of a win ‑‑ he's pretty prolific and very clinical when it comes to finishing. Hats off to him! He's a classy player and he was impossible to catch out there.”
Casey, marking a return to form after a season plagued by a toe problem, had initially threatened to be the one making a winning charge making five birdies. He was slowed by the return of a swing fault caused by the injury but had the best seat in the house playing in the winner’s group.
“He didn't flinch. It was very good stuff from him. [I had a] front row seat for Martin Kaymer, watching, that because that was a brilliant performance.”
In the long-term, perhaps just as impressive was the achievement of relatively unknown local player Zhang Xinjun beating the previous record for the highest finish by a Chinese player at the HSBC Champions. A professional for only a year, the 24-year old from the Terracotta Warrior city of Xian tied for thirteenth alongside Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter thanks largely to an eight-under-par third round. The previous best finishes were 24th by Liang Wenchong in 2008 and 25th for Zhang Lianwei three years earlier.
“He played very solid golf,” declared Kaymer of the former security guard.
“He's a long hitter. His putting is brilliant, so I can see him playing well in the future. I had never heard of him before, but you've got to watch out, there are more players coming from Asia and he's probably one of the better ones!” he added.
For Kaymer, his victory shone a different light on a year that started with a stunning victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in January. The German said the pressure of becoming world number one in February – and not swing changes to prepare for a challenge at Augusta – was responsible for a relative slump, but that completing a sponsor’s double has turned an okay season into a good one.
“I started off with my HSBC win in Abu Dhabi and I’ve finished my year by winning the tournament in Shanghai. I obviously really like the HSBC tournaments!”
With the end of Tiger Woods' reign, golf has truly entered a brave new world!