Kaymer reaches the top with wins, not questions


MARANA, Arizona (AP)—Four years ago in another desert, caddie Fanny Sunessonwas sitting near the putting green at Bighorn Golf Club waiting for her work dayto start when she mentioned her part-time job with the Germany team.

Bernhard Langer was approaching 50. There was no heir apparent in Germangolf.

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

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

Martin Kamyer of Germany studi…
AP - Feb 27, 5:19 pm EST

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

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

Kaymer shot 59 on a mini-tour in Europe, a magic number at any level. Heearned his European Tour card without going to Q-school, then was rookie of theyear. After winning his first European Tour event in 2008 at Abu Dhabi, he threwdown 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’sgoing to be something, I promise you.”

Kaymer officially took over as No. 1 in the world on Monday. How long hestays at the top remains to be seen, for Lee Westwood will have a chance to takeit 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 UnitedStates—Westwood earned his No. 1 ranking. Although he has not won a major, noone performed better and more consistently in the biggest tournaments over thetwo-year period that the ranking uses to measure players around the world.

So why the debate?

Westwood had only three wins during those years. One was the St. JudeClassic, a middle-tier event on the U.S. PGA Tour, and only because RobertGarrigus made triple bogey on the 18th hole. Adding to the skepticism, Westwoodwas home in England the day he reached No. 1, clinched when Kaymer didn’t finishin 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 amajor with the kind of shots that suggest the U.S. PGA Championship won’t be hislast one. Kaymer holed a 15-foot par putt on the last hole that got him into aplayoff. After Bubba Watson birdied the first of a three-hole playoff, Kaymeranswered 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 glaringweakness 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, Kaymerbeat the strongest field on the European Tour by eight shots.

And when Westwood was bounced out of the second round of the Match PlayChampionship, it opened up an opportunity for Kaymer to reach No. 1 if he couldget to the finalk.

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 inthe quarterfinal, then calmly holed an 8-foot par on the 18th hole to beatWatson 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 wayto 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-dozenplayers could be No. 1 when the Masters rolls around.

Woods has slipped to No. 5, his lowest ranking since the week before he wonthe 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 inthe 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 playerwho gets there.

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

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

His mother died in 2008, just three weeks after Kaymer won the BMWInternational Open in Munich. A year later, he won the French Open and ScottishOpen in consecutive weeks and had a shot at his first Order of Merit beforeinjuring his foot in a go-kart 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 thelast group on Sunday and feel that heat, preferably against the best playersever, so that I can compare myself,” Kaymer said. “And if I compare myself, Ican see my weaknesses or strengths that I have, and I can move on and work onthat.

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