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.
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.
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