Unknowns Worth Watching

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2007- WGC-AccentureTUCSON, Arizona -- Martin Kaymer was barely a blip on golf's radar screen until he shot a 59 on a mini-tour in Europe, then moved onto the Challenge Tour and finished fourth on the money list despite playing only eight tournaments.
 
That was 18 months ago.
 
Those who have watched him play are not surprised to see where he is now, nor do they put limits on how far he can go. The 23-year-old German is not only in the Accenture Match Play Championship, he is the No. 21 seed. He also is in the running for a spot on the Ryder Cup team, and likely will be eligible for all four majors.
 
'This is one worth watching,' Padraig Harrington said.
 
Kaymer was 41st on the Order of Merit last year in Europe to win rookie of the year, and his goal for 2008 was simply to keep his card. Then he won Abu Dhabi, and his birdie-birdie-eagle finish at Dubai put him runner-up to Tiger Woods.
 
'You've got to watch this kid play,' said Ernie Els, who was paired with him in Dubai the last round. 'He's going to be something, I promise you. He's long. He's got a great touch. You'll see a lot of him.'
 
This is a return trip to Arizona for Kaymer, a lean 6-footer who is dripping with enthusiasm and humility. With the winters so cold in Germany, he has gone to Phoenix the last two winters, playing mostly at Whisper Rock and Troon North this year.
 
'The facilities over here are perfect, the weather ... and I really like the American attitude in sport. They are so supportive,' Kaymer said. 'When I came here, I got to the golf course and I said, 'I play on the European Tour. Is there any chance I can practice here?' And they said, 'Yes, of course you can.' In Europe, you can't do that.'
 
The fact Kaymer beat Henrik Stenson in Abu Dhabi was sheer coincidence. Stenson's caddie is Fanny Sunesson, who has been working part-time with the German national team and still coaches Kaymer in course management and strategy.
 
Kaymer will play Boo Weekley in the first round Wednesday, and he knows what to expect. Kaymer and Alex Cejka played against Weekley and Heath Slocum at the World Cup in China.
 
'My first impression was he's a nice guy,' Kaymer said. 'Everybody asked me, 'Did you understand him?' I said, 'A little bit.''
 
TRIVIA TIME
Which player has lost to the most winners of the Accenture Match Play Championship?
 
SHARK HONORED
Greg Norman has been selected for the Charlie Bartlett Award by the Golf Writers Association of America for a commitment to charity that has spanned three decades and helped causes from children's cancer research to disaster relief.
 
Norman, inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2001 with two majors and 75 victories worldwide, has raised more than $10 million for charities, starting with children's cancer through his two-man team golf tournament formerly called the Shark Shootout.
 
He lent his helicopter to Katrina Relief efforts, teamed with former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush to benefit Tsunami Relief to help raise $2 million.
 
The award is named after the first secretary of the GWAA and is given to a professional golfer for his unselfish contributions to society. Norman will be honored at the association's annual awards dinner April 9 in Augusta, Ga.
 
NEW CHAIRMAN
Masters champion Zach Johnson has a new title -- chairman of the Players Advisory Council.
 
With the polls closing Friday at Riviera and voter turnout higher than it had been in years, Johnson was elected chairman over Rich Beem and Brett Quigley. And for his acceptance speech?
 
'I was shocked I won,' Johnson said. 'Shocked because the two guys I was up against, Beemer and Quigley, have been out here for years and are great guys who don't mind sharing their opinions are care deeply about this tour.'
 
The election means Johnson will move up to the policy board next year.
 
EVERT OBSERVATIONS
For those who wonder whether it's tougher to win in stroke play or match play, consider the assessment of tennis great Chris Evert, who attended her first PGA Tour event two weeks ago at Pebble Beach while watching fiance Greg Norman.
 
'My observations of golf is that mentally, it's a tougher sport than tennis,' said Evert, winner of 18 Grand Slam titles. 'There are no freebies. In tennis, I've been down 6-love, 5-1, 40-15 and won the match. And in golf, you can't do that. You have to be relentless on every single shot.'
 
The other thing she noticed was a competition among 180 players at Pebble Beach. But this week at the Match Play Championship, the winner only has to beat six players.
 
'My first Wimbledon I won, I didn't play Billie Jean (King) or Yvonne (Goolagong) because they were beaten,' she said. 'I would have for sure lost to them on grass.'
 
TRIVIA ANSWER
Nick O'Hern. He lost in 2001 to Steve Stricker in the quarterfinals, in 2006 to Geoff Ogilvy in the second round, and last year to Henrik Stenson in the quarterfinals.
 
DIVOTS
Jim Furyk, who missed the cut at Riviera, was seen practicing with a belly putter at Dove Mountain. ... The World Golf Hall of Fame has new artifacts on display in its Jack Nicklaus exhibition, which includes the set of MacGregor irons he used to win the 1986 Masters, and the driver and wedge he used to win the 1975 Masters. ... The Tavistock Cup, matches between touring pros from Lake Nona and Isleworth in the Orlando, Fla., area, will have women on each team. Annika Sorenstam again will play for Lake Nona, while Paula Creamer will make her debut for Isleworth. ... The European Open will return to England for the first time since 1994 when it is held July 3-6 on the Jack Nicklaus-designed Heritage course at The London Golf Club in Kent.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Jeff Maggert (1999) and Darren Clarke (2000) are the only players to beat the No. 1 seed on their way to winning the Accenture Match Play Championship.
 
FINAL WORD
'Maybe they would have grown more if the same guy wasn't winning them.' -- Stuart Appleby on the World Golf Championships. Of the 26 that have been played for official money, Tiger Woods has won 14.
 

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