Kaymer reaches the top with wins not questions

By Doug FergusonMarch 1, 2011, 3:22 am

2005 WGC Accenture Match PlayMARANA, Ariz. – Four years ago in another desert, caddie Fanny Sunesson was sitting near the putting green at Bighorn Golf Club waiting for her work day to start when she mentioned her part-time job with the German national team.

Bernhard Langer was approaching 50. There was no heir apparent in German golf.

Sunesson, filling in for Michelle Wie at the time, mentioned one young prospect with natural skill and amazing poise who had recently turned pro. His name was Martin Kaymer.

“Didn’t I tell you to remember his name?” she asked playfully from behind the 10th green Saturday morning at Dove Mountain, where she watched Kaymer dispose of another opponent in the Match Play Championship on his way to becoming No. 1 in the world.

Stardom came faster for Kaymer than it has for any player this side of Tiger Woods.

And there were early signs of greatness, even if not as many people were paying attention.

Kaymer shot 59 on a mini-tour in Europe, a magic number at any level. He earned his European Tour card without going to Q-school, then was rookie of the year. After winning his first European Tour event in 2008 at Abu Dhabi, he threw down a birdie-birdie-eagle finish in Dubai to finish one shot behind Woods.

Ernie Els wasn’t kidding three years ago when he said of Kaymer, “He’s going to be something, I promise you.”

Kaymer officially took over as No. 1 in the world on Monday. How long he stays at the top remains to be seen, for Lee Westwood will have a chance to take it back this week at the Honda Classic.

This time, however, this is no debate over No. 1.

Despite critics of the world ranking system – most of them in the United States – Westwood earned his No. 1 ranking. Although he has not won a major, no one performed better and more consistently in the biggest tournaments over the two-year period that the ranking uses to measure players around the world.

So why the debate?

Westwood only had three wins during those years. One was the St. Jude Classic, a middle-tier event on the PGA Tour, and only because Robert Garrigus made triple bogey on the 18th hole. Adding to the skepticism, Westwood was home in England the day he reached No. 1, clinched when Kaymer didn’t finish in the top two that week at the Andalucia Masters.

Kaymer’s rise to the top was far more active.

The 26-year-old German has won seven times over the last two years. He won a major with the kind of shots that suggest the PGA Championship won’t be his last one. Kaymer holed a 15-foot par putt on the last hole that got him into a playoff. After Bubba Watson birdied the first of a three-hole playoff, Kaymer answered with a birdie on the toughest par 3 at Whistling Straits.

That was the start of three straight wins.

There already is a mystique about the “Germanator,” who has no glaring weakness and is determined to fix the flaws only he can see. When Europe’s best – not to mention Phil Mickelson – gathered at the Abu Dhabi Championship, Kaymer beat the strongest field on the European Tour by eight shots.

And when Westwood was bounced out of the second round of the Match Play Championship, it opened up an opportunity for Kaymer to reach No. 1 if he could get to the championship match.

He rallied over the final six holes to beat Hunter Mahan in the third round. He hit hybrid onto the 18th green to secure par and beat Miguel Angel Jimenez in the quarterfinal, then calmly holed an 8-foot par on the 18th hole to beat Watson in the semifinal.

For sure, Kaymer did not back his way into No. 1.

It would have been even sweeter to win a World Golf Championship on his way to No. 1.

But that wasn’t necessary.

There should be no argument about it. For now – and perhaps for awhile –  Kaymer is the guy to beat, although the ranking is so volatile that a half-dozen players could be No. 1 when the Masters rolls around.

Woods has slipped to No. 5, his lowest ranking since the week before he won the 1997 Masters. Kaymer might be a solid No. 2 if not for Woods’ free fall, first with his personal life and then with his golf swing. Kaymer’s average in the world ranking is 8.36. Woods was at 14.67 when the 2009 season ended.

So in that respect, Woods has as much to do with who’s No. 1 as the player who gets there.

What’s different this time around is that Kaymer is nearly a decade younger than Woods, polished but not quite refined. His best golf could still be ahead of him.

Kaymer might have been here even sooner if not for some emotional and physical bumps along the way.

His mother died in 2008, just three weeks after Kaymer won the BMW International Open in Munich. A year later, he won the French Open and Scottish Open in consecutive weeks and had a shot at his first Order of Merit before injuring his foot in a go-cart accident and missing six crucial weeks.

Being No. 1 is not likely to alter his ambition.

“I want to go out and win tournaments. I want to compete, get myself in the last group on Sunday and feel that heat, preferably against the best players ever, so that I can compare myself,” Kaymer said. “And if I compare myself, I can see my weaknesses or strengths that I have, and I can move on and work on that.

“But it’s always the vision of getting better and winning more tournaments,” he said. “That’s what keeps me going. And that is what I love to do.”

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.