Monday, October 11, 2010

Kaymer the King at St Andrews

Germany’s Martin Kaymer fulfilled his dream of winning a golf tournament at St Andrews after a flamboyant 66 on the Old Course earned him victory in the 10th Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Despite breezy and difficult conditions, scoring was phenomenal with shouts ringing out all over the course as birdies rattled in, but the biggest cheer came when Kaymer putted from off the green at the formidable 17th Road Hole for a birdie three to effectively clinch the title. For good measure he birdied the 18th hole as well despite hitting his drive on to the road. Throughout the final day he had once again shown the steely resolve which helped him become a major championship winner at just 25 at the US PGA in August, as he held off a series of formidable challenges to secure his third consecutive strokeplay win, something not achieved by any player since Tiger Woods in 2006. The tournament, conceived as a celebration of links golf, is played over three of the world’s best known and respected links courses - the Old Course at St Andrews, the Championship Course at Carnoustie and the highly regarded Kingsbarns Golf Links. Many of the spectators who crowded the Old Course had come to see Lee Westwood crowned as World No 1, a ranking he could have achieved if he had finished 1st or 2nd, but he was never able to get his game going and produced just three birdies on a day when most of his rivals were doing much better. In the end it was Kaymer, another of Europe’s Ryder Cup heroes from Celtic Manor, who had the crowd on their feet as he produced a splendid round of seven birdies and just one bogey for a 72 hole total of 17-under-par to beat England’s Danny Willett by three shots, with overnight leader John Parry a further shot behind. Kaymer said: “It was always one of my dreams to win at St Andrews. I can still remember my first day here as an amateur and walking down the 1st hole, over the bridge, all those things. They felt very special to me. It was very special for me to win here today. Three in a row, well three-and-a-half if you include the Ryder Cup – it wasn’t just my own win – is pretty good. I was never expecting that I could win three tournaments in a row, so I don’t really have an answer for why I am playing so well at the moment.” He said he had no problems getting motivated after the Ryder Cup. “To come here to St. Andrews, I think you owe that golf course 100 per cent concentration. That's what you have to bring when you want to play golf. Just to come here for me is a privilege, to win here is fantastic, ” said Kaymer who now moves into the top five in the world rankings after receiving the winner’s cheque of US$800,000 (£500,000. German businessman Patrick Roseler, who was playing with Kaymer in the Team Championship, has known him since he was 14. He said: “We are very good friends. I caddied for him in the 2007 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. To be able to walk up the 18th hole at the Old Course with him as he was winning the title in such style was just a great experience. His birdie-birdie finish was sensational. He got the Ryder Cup out of his mind and was just so focused on what he had to do to fulfil one of his greatest golfing dreams – which was to win at the Home of Golf. We spoke about it before and during the tournament. For him, it is a dream realised and for me it is simply the best week I have ever had in golf.” Kaymer got off to a perfect start. While he birdied the 1st hole, overnight leader Parry had a bogey to see his two shot lead wiped out in minutes. But Kaymer was not able to hold on to that advantage and by the turn Parry was back in the lead by one. But, as at Carnoustie on Saturday, Parry just did not have his putting stroke in control and three-putted the 11th and 13th before hitting his second shot into a bush at the 14th for a double bogey seven which ended his challenge. Meanwhile other challengers began to appear, none more dangerous than young Englishman Danny Willett, who produced a faultless round including three birdies and an eagle at the par five 14th for a 67. Like Kaymer, his putt from off the green at the Road Hole took a similar line, but while Kaymer’s dropped in, Willett’s stayed resolutely out. He said: “It's been a good week. I've been playing well all year and played really nice today. The 17th was big, obviously, with Martin holing that putt, but it’s still a good result. He putted well today and when he's had a chance to make birdie and stay up there, he's done it. Take your hat off to him.” Another plucky young Englishman Gary Boyd put together five birdies before coming to grief with a bogey at the Road Hole, but finished fourth on 12-under-par. Defending champion Simon Dyson produced one of the rounds of the day with a 66, to finish tied one shot further back with top finishing Scot Martin Laird, 67, and Spain’s Alvaro Quiros, who had a level par 72. Laird, who plays his golf predominantly on the US Tour, said: “The only five I had all day was on the 17th and that's playing really tough right now. I’m obviously very happy. I've not hit one practice putt or practice ball all week, and sometimes when you just kind of relax and don't expect much, you have good weeks and that's what it has been this week, just having fun at home, staying with my parents in Kirkcaldy.” Although he did not move to the No 1 position in the world rankings, Lee Westwood, who has been suffering with a leg injury, was happy with his week. “I was obviously not at my best physically, and woke up this morning and it was hurting more than the other days. So all in all, I don't suppose seven under-par is too bad. I’ll take where I am in the world rankings. I've had a great year up until getting injured. Look at all world ranking points I've won. The world rankings at the moment show the strength of European golf. We've had some fantastic accomplishments from players in majors this year from Louis (Oosthuizen), Martin (Kaymer), Graeme (McDowell), and I finished second a couple of times as well, so there have been some brilliant performances and it's no wonder the top of the world rankings are stacked with Europeans.” Partnering the professionals have been an enthusiastic group of talented amateur golfers competing for the Alfred Dunhill Links Team Championship which was won by Irish businessman Dermot Desmond and 2008 individual professional winner Robert Karlsson with a total of 30-under-par, two shots ahead of Soren Hansen & Kieran McManus. Dermot Desmond, who has played in all ten Alfred Dunhill Links Championships but has never won, said he feared he would “always be the bridesmaid”. His great friend and business partner, fellow Irishman J.P. McManus, has already won twice, but the best Desmond could do before this triumph was finishing once as runner-up. “J.P. has held the bragging rights in this event, but I was very pleased for him when he won, so I imagine he will feel the same now that I have finally managed to come out on top, said Desmond.” Former Scotland international footballer Alan Hansen, playing with Richie Ramsay, finished in ninth on 25-under. He said: “We have had a fantastic time. I played really well today, in fact I played better than I did yesterday but I just couldn’t hole the putts whereas yesterday they were flying in. I’ve had such a great time. To finish 25-under and only getting two shots every day has been tremendous. To make the cut and play on the Old Course on the last day has been great. Richie has been fantastic and we’ve had a laugh every day. I’ve enjoyed it.” Lisa O’Hurley finished joint 12th on 22-under, playing with Finnish professional Mikko Ilonen. She earned the bragging rights in the family after making the cut ahead of her husband and comedian John O’Hurley with whom she shares a fierce golfing rivalry. She said: “This is my favourite week of the year. I plan the other 51 weeks around this and I have worked very hard coming into here – I practised a lot, got new clubs, got lessons. Everything. I was the only woman who made the cut and same last year, so I feel pretty good. I get very excited about that. I’ll talk about it to John the rest of the year.” Also playing have been celebrities from the world of entertainment which included film and TV stars Matthew Goode, Hugh Grant, Samuel L Jackson, Kyle MacLachlan, James Nesbitt and Aidan Quinn. Also taking part were rock music legend Huey Lewis and Michael Flatley, the Irish/American step dancer who created Riverdance, and popular Radio 2 presenter Chris Evans. Three of Britain’s sporting knights – Sir Ian Botham, Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Steve Redgrave - led a locker room full of sporting heroes, including Dutch football legends Johann Cruyff and Ruud Gullit, former England player Jamie Redknapp and ex-Chelsea and Italy star Gianfranco Zola. Rugby was represented by three great former internationals, All Blacks former captain Sean Fitzpatrick, Scotland’s Gavin Hastings and Argentina’s Hugo Porta, while cricketers Allan Lamb and Michael Vaughan of England and Steve Waugh and Shane Warne of Australia were also in the field, along with immensely popular former Wimbledon tennis player Tim Henman and Austrian downhill skier Franz Klammer. The first Alfred Dunhill Links Championship was staged in 2001, but Alfred Dunhill’s support for golf at St Andrews, through the Alfred Dunhill Cup, an international team championship that took place from 1985 to 2000, goes back 26 years.

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