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Clinical Kaymer Brilliant German produces a wonder round to best a world-class field and scoop his first WGC title at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, writes Tim Maitland

M

artin Kaymer ended the run of first-time winners taking home the sport’s top trophies and lifted himself above the crowd when he won the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai early November. Shooting a record low winning round for the World Golf Championships, the German’s nine birdies in his last 12 holes propelled him over a leader board packed with recent WGC and major winners and past overnight leader Fredrik Jacobson to a nine-under-par 63 final round and a three-shot victory. “To shoot 63 in a final round is always great, but on a golf course like this and in a World Golf Championships is obviously special," said the 26-year-old,

WGC-HSBC Champions Final Standings 1

AFP/Getty Images

Fast finisher: Kaymer completed the biggest comeback in WGC history with his finalround 63 in Shanghai 60

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Martin Kaymer

69 68 68 63

268

€842,218

2

Fredrik Jacobson

67 66 67 71

271

€473,747

3

Graeme McDowell

69 69 67 67

272

€301,795

4=

Paul Casey

70 66 70 67

273

€181,311

Rory McIlroy

70 69 65 69

273

€181,311

Charl Schwartzel

70 69 69 65

273

€181,311

7=

Hunter Mahan

71 67 69 65

274

€108,786

Louis Oosthuizen

71 63 68 72

274

€108,786

Justin Rose

68 70 70 66

274

€108,786

10

Jhonattan Vegas

69 73 65 68

275

€87,731

11=

Adam Scott

69 65 69 73

276

€77,203

Bo Van Pelt

67 69 70 70

276

€77,203

13=

Ian Poulter

70 68 69 71

278

€63,166

Zhang Xin-jun

74 68 64 72

278

€63,166

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AFP/Getty Images

who, having won the 2010 PGA Championship becomes the first of golf’s new breed to follow up his first big breakthrough win with another top-level victory. "The way I played was different. It was really special. I can’t remember a day when I played golf like this. My putting was outstanding,” Kaymer’s brilliant late charge was enough to better a field that contained a host of contenders all vying to be the game's dominant player. While Tiger Woods was conspicuous by his absence (the now-ranked number 55 in the world failed to qualify for the tournament for the very first time) and Luke Donald withdrew to be at the birth of his second daughter, Rory McIlroy and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel finished tied for fourth along with Paul Casey, while 2010 US Open winner Graeme McDowell came third. “If Martin Kaymer had not skipped the last couple of holes, we might all have had a chance,” joked the Northern Irishman, who got to see some of Kaymer’s fireworks from the group behind. “He's an unbelievable frontrunner; when he gets a sniff of a win he's pretty prolific and very clinical when it comes to finishing. Hats off to him! He's a classy player and he was impossible to catch out there.” Casey, marking a return to form after a season plagued by a toe problem, had initially threatened to be the one making a winning charge by carding five early birdies. He was 62

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slowed by the return of a swing fault caused by the injury but had the best seat in the house playing in the winner’s group. “He didn't flinch. It was very good stuff from him," said Casey. "[I had a] front row seat watching Martin Kaymer ... a brilliant performance.” In the long term, perhaps just as impressive was the achievement of relatively unknown local player Zhang Xinjun beating the previous record for the highest finish by a Chinese player at the HSBC Champions. A professional for only a year, the 24-year old from the Terracotta Warrior city of Xian tied for 13th alongside Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter thanks largely to an eight-under-par 64 in the third round. The previous best finishes were 24th by Liang Wenchong in 2008 and 25th for Zhang Lianwei three years earlier. “He played very solid golf,” declared Kaymer of the former security guard. “He's a long hitter. His putting is brilliant, so I can see him playing well in the future. I had never heard of him before, but you've got to watch out, there are more players coming from Asia and he's probably one of the better ones,” he added. For Kaymer, his victory shone a different light on a year that started with a stunning v ic tor y at t he A bu Dhabi HSBC G ol f Championship in January. The German said

the pressure of becoming world number one in February – and not swing changes to prepare for a challenge at Augusta – was responsible for a relative slump, but that completing a sponsor’s double has turned an okay season into a good one. “I started off with my HSBC win in Abu Dhabi and I’ve finished my year by winning the tournament in Shanghai. I obviously really like the HSBC tournaments!”

Fine China (clockwise from top): Kaymer and his caddie Christian Donald (brother of Luke) celebrate yet another holed putt on Sunday; McDowell enjoyed a solid week; homegrown talent Zhang Xinjun wowed the galleries with his gutsy display; Sweden's Jacobson earned nearly half a million Euro for his second-place finish

Europe’s Golden Age The results from Shanghai underscored what has become abundantly clear over the past 12 months: that European players and those who ply their trade on the European Tour are the dominant force in the game today. In the last two years three Northern Irishmen –McDowell, McIlroy and Darren Clarke – have claimed their first majors along with Kaymer. Tour members Louis Oosthuizen (2010 Open) and Charl Schwartzel (2011 Masters) have done likewise for South Africa. England’s Luke Donald, Kaymer (8 weeks) and Lee Westwood (22 weeks) have each held the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking since Woods relinquished his numero uno status in November 2010. Donald, fellow Englishman Ian Poulter (respectively, the 2011 and 2010 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship winners) and last year's HSBC Champions titleholder Francesco Molinari have all claimed their first WGC titles along with the young German. The facts are easier to relay than the reasons, although Westwood argues that the debate doesn’t have to be complex. “We’re just very good at the moment. There’s no other reason than that. You don’t need another reason other than that. I just think European golf is really strong at the moment," said Westwood, a hero for Europe at the last Ryder Cup. "We’ve got a lot of good players, so if you play well you’re going to win. A lot of the players at the moment have been around a while, but also a lot of the good young players have just come through and are getting comfortable too. “It’s not something I really think about too much; I’m getting bored talking about it to be honest,” he added matter-of-factly. Not everyone finds the discussion so tedious. Alvaro Quiros, the flamboyant 28-year-old Spaniard whose Dubai Desert Classic triumph

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in February guaranteed his place in the field for Shanghai, is far more excited about the situation. “I think it’s an amazing time, because we’re playing great golf courses and great events with the best players of both of the main tours," said Quiros, one of the longest drivers in the game. "Obviously European golf is in a great moment and maybe the only time where European and American golf has been at the same level. We are in different stages right now. It’s like soccer in Spain. Barcelona is the best team in the world by far, but five years ago it was Real Madrid – by far too." –Tim Maitland

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HKGOLFER.COM 60 HK GOLFER・DEC 2011 HKGOLFER.COM HK GOLFER・DEC 2011 61 european tour WGC-HSBC Champions Final Standings Fast finisher: Kaymer...

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