ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates On the eve of the final round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, Martin Kaymer tried to convince his rivals that he is not a machine. A closer inspection may be required after his eight-shot victory. It's his ninth victory in 100 starts.
No one could prevent the Germanator from turning Sunday's final round into his personal coronation in the desert. That's three victories in four years for Kaymer in Abu Dhabi. He takes home $455,000, gets to keep the fabulous falcon trophy, and overtakes Tiger Woods as No. 2 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Woods will be ranked third when he starts his season Thursday at Torrey Pines, his lowest spot in the world rankings since October 2004, when Vijay Singh climbed to the summit and Ernie Els was No. 2.
Kaymer's annihilation of both the course and his rivals was reminiscent of Woods at his most irrepressible and robotic best, bullying his way to victory. But the soft-spoken Kaymer is too modest to accept such comparisons. "It's makes me proud to take over from Tiger, the player I consider to be the best golfer to have ever lived," Kaymer said. "To be in front of him for a week, or a month, would make me happy, for sure. We'll see how long it takes him to overtake me," he added smiling.
With Lee Westwood holding on to his No. 1 spot despite finishing tied for 64th at two over par, Europeans occupy the top two places in the rankings for the first time since Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer in 1993. Kaymer has only Westwood to dethrone to follow his boyhood hero Langer to the pinnacle of his sport. "You can see how strong European golf is. And not just the Ryder Cup and the majors last year," Kaymer said. He had words of consolation for the runner-up, too. "Rory (McIlroy) will win plenty of majors in his career and be world No. 1 one day, too."
Kaymer shot a final round 66 to finish at 23 under par. He is now 80 under par on the National Course in his last 16 rounds. He made just one bogey all week, which occured after a shank in the first round. (Well, nobody's perfect.) His nearest rival, McIlroy, needed a fast start to have any hope of closing the six-shot deficit. He also needed Kaymer's machine-like precision to get clogged up with sand and break down. Not a chance. Kaymer birdied two of the first three holes and hit six of the seven fairways in regulation on the front nine and all nine greens. "He's not unbeatable," McIlroy had said. He found out otherwise. McIlroy hit two fat wedges to bogey the third, and then dropped another shot at the fifth. And that was that.
McIlroy shot a respectable 69 but could do nothing to prevent the inexorable march of the machine. "No one in the world could have beaten him this week," McIlroy said. "You know, he's got a very powerful swing, does everything very well, is great under pressure, and putts well," McIlroy said. "It's just that German thing about him. He's just very efficient. You know, he isn't flashy. He just gets on with his business."
Kaymer could surely lay claim to being the Best Player in the World Right Now after an almost faultless performance to destroy a stellar field, which included four of the top five players in the world and seven of the top 12. However, Kaymer said that Westwood still enjoys that plaudit.
"It's about consistency in the world rankings," Kaymer said. "That's why he's No.1 and for me he's the best player in the world." So just what makes the Germanator tick? "He reminds me a lot of Bernhard Langer. He's got that steely sort of intestinal fortitude," Westwood said. Guts, as Americans say.
But there is relief and good news for Kaymer's rivals of a kind. He is taking next week off to work on his swing with his coach. Lesson One will presumably begin: How to improve on perfection. "The way I played to win the PGA Championship last year gave me the belief I can win any tournament I enter," Kaymer said.
And now the bad news: As Arnie might say (Schwarzenegger, not Palmer), the Germanator will be back for the Qatar Masters on Feb. 3. Those with designs on a bumper payday and a shiny trophy that week could do worse than start learning the words to While My Qatar Gently Weeps.