Martin Kaymer clinched his first title of 2012 as he won the Nedbank Golf Challenge in rainy conditions at the Gary Player Country Club by two strokes from local hero Charl Schwartzel on Sunday.
Photo gallery, Day 4
The German started the day at five-under par for the tournament and enjoyed a slender one-stroke lead when he teed off. However, a serious bottleneck at the top meant that he would face stiff competition with numerous players making early moves at the beginning of the final round.
Kaymer looked to have made the ideal start as he eagled the par-five second, but cancelled it out immediately after with an ugly double-bogey at the third. The chasing pack seized the opportunity and, at one stage, he had Schwartzel, Bill Haas and Louis Oosthuizen for company at five-under.
But as the rain teemed down, the 27 year-old Kaymer came good as he put together three birdies in a row around the turn. He also had a few fortuitous breaks on the back nine as some wayward tee shots went unpunished, most notably on the 14th where he scrambled to make a pivotal birdie.
“The eagle at the second hole was a bonus – two great shots and a nice putt. The third obviously wasn’t so good as I hit a bad tee shot and got into trouble.
“But for me the biggest luck today was definitely on 14 with my tee shot, and then making birdie. I could very easily have made a six or a seven, so that was very lucky that I found that ball in the perfect position and could chip it down the fairway and make four from there,” he said.
And, although Schwartzel pushed him all the way, the German showed tremendous tenacity as some crucial recovery shots and clutch putts on a difficult back nine were enough to post a final round of 69 which got him over the line by two shots.
The win firmly underlines Kaymer’s return to form after a difficult 2012. Since his heroics in the Ryder Cup, the former PGA champion has been knocking on the door and he’s finally broken the victory drought to claim a lucrative winner’s cheque of $1,250,000.
“I’m just very happy to finally win this year. That was the important thing for me, because I’ve practised very hard and played very well the last few weeks and months but it just hasn’t happened for me on the golf course. I said to my caddie that we have to win one tournament every year and this was our last chance. Fortunately, we could bring it home,” a delighted Kaymer said.
The South African crowds had every reason to believe that they would see a South African lift the crystal trophy for the first time since 2007, as Schwartzel and Oosthuizen made impressive starts to their days. Schwartzel reached the turn with a score of 34, and birdies at the 10th and 14th holes at one stage had the South African just one stroke behind going down the stretch. But a loose second shot at the difficult par-four 17th resulted in a bogey, which ultimately ended his challenge as his 69 saw him finish at six-under for the event.
Despite his own promising start, Oosthuizen ultimately struggled to hit the ball consistently well in the wet conditions and five bogeys on the day saw him sign for a 74, and he finished in fourth place.
An eagle at the second hole catapulted Haas into contention and three more birdies kept him in the hunt. Sadly for the American bogeys at the 16th and 17th holes dashed his hopes, although his 71 was enough to secure third place on his own. Defending champion Lee Westwood looked set to mount a serious charge to make it three titles in a row as his iron shots tracked the flagsticks all day. However, his infamously cold putter let him down, and a 73 meant he had to settle for fifth place on his own.
Kaymer becomes the second German to taste success at Sun City this week, after countryman Bernhard Langer wrapped up the Nedbank Champions Challenge Saturday. The air of patriotism was not lost on Kaymer, as he revealed the degree of Langer’s influence on his golf this year.
“Bernhard has been a massive help for me. We talked at the Ryder Cup on the Saturday in the players’ lounge when I didn’t play at all, and we talked about the spirit and the attitude of the Ryder Cup, and you can use that for regular tournaments as well.
“So he has been a huge influence for me. There was a bit more pressure today because everyone was talking about the German double. But I’m very fortunate that everything worked out for me, and it’s obviously very nice from Bernhard that he called me straight away,” the German said.
Although he was acutely aware of how desperate the local galleries were to see a first South African victory in the event for five years, Kaymer had warm words for the supporters and his experience in South Africa.
“The first time I came to South Africa was in 2005 to Fancourt with the German national side and I loved it. Then I came back again last year for the Nedbank, and I always went on those game drives and saw things you can only see here.
“You have so much more opportunities here and possibilities to get away from golf and see things and learn things about the animals, and that is what I really enjoy. Every time I come here it is fun, because the people are great. Even today, they were very fair. They applauded me, and were very nice, and it’s great to see,” he said.
280 - Martin Kaymer (Germany) 72 69 70 69
282 - Charl Schwartzel (SA) 72 71 70 69
285 - Bill Haas (USA) 70 73 71 71
286 - Louis Oosthuizen (SA) 71 72 69 74
287 - Lee Westwood (England) 71 73 70 73
289 - Paul Lawrie (Scotland) 71 69 75 74
290 - Carl Pettersson (Sweden) 72 75 74 69, Francesco Molinari (Italy) 72 71 78 69
291 - Peter Hanson (Sweden) 72 73 73 73
293 - Nicolas Colsaerts (Belgium) 70 78 74 71
295 - Justin Rose (England) 73 79 69 74
297 - Garth Mulroy (SA) 75 73 75 74