Even a first win in more than a year and a beefy $1.25 million check couldn’t better that momentous Ryder Cup moment for Martin Kaymer.
The German held on through the final five holes at the Nedbank Golf Challenge for a two-shot victory at a rainy Sun City on Sunday, giving him something else to take from 2012 along with his Ryder Cup-retaining putt back in September.
”I will still never do a bigger putt in my life,” Kaymer said, remembering Medinah minutes after securing his first Nedbank triumph.
Kaymer finished with an 8-under-par 280, ahead of South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel in second. Kaymer and Schwartzel each closed with a 69, but Schwartzel’s bogey on No. 17 after closing to within one shot eventually gave Kaymer enough breathing space.
”It was always tight. Charl played a great round of golf,” Kaymer said, adding he only felt comfortable once his par putt on 18 had dropped to confirm his victory. ”I was telling (my caddie) I need a win. I need a win in 2012.”
Kaymer was twice in trouble toward the end, first pulling his tee shot deep into the rough on the par-5 No. 14. He blasted out through the trees and into the middle of the fairway and eventually made a brilliant birdie.
He then bogeyed No. 15 to allow Schwartzel to get within one but recovered his composure with pars on the last three to close out a first win since the WGC HSBC Champions in November 2011.
Schwartzel had three birdies, including one at 14, but a bogey five at No. 17 eventually saw another Nedbank slip away from the home favorite, who was still looking for his first success after four attempts.
”It was really tough out there. The course played long but I’m doing a bit better every year here,” Schwartzel told CCTV News. ”I gave it a good shot, I just came up short at the end.”
American Bill Haas was third, at 3 under, a shot ahead of Kaymer’s final-round playing partner, South African Louis Oosthuizen, who was fourth, at 2 under. Two-time defending champion Lee Westwood’s run at Sun City ended with a 73 for a 1-under 287 total and fifth place.
The other players in the 12-man field were all over par at a tough Gary Player Country Club layout, where narrow fairways, stubborn rough, gusty winds and — on Sunday — steady rain made scoring consistently difficult. No one shot better than 69 all week.
Kaymer eagled the par-5 No. 2, double-bogeyed No. 3, then had three birdies before his crucial recovery on the 14th. Deep in trouble, he found his way out of the bushes and put his third to within 10 feet. He made the birdie putt to ensure he had enough of an advantage through the closing holes.
Kaymer’s long-awaited win came after restructuring his swing and at the end of a memorable year that was still marked more than anything else, he said, by that putt at the Ryder Cup in Europe’s thrilling win over the United States.
He also completed a German double at Sun City after Bernhard Langer won the seniors’ event on Saturday. Langer called Kaymer straight after his victory to congratulate him.
Westwood’s attempt to become the first player to win three straight Nedbank titles ended at the telling 14th hole, where the No. 6-ranked Englishman took two shots to get out of the rough and then found the bunker and missed a bogey putt to come away with a challenge-ending double-bogey seven.
Behind him, Paul Lawrie was sixth, at 1-over 289 after a 74, and Francesco Molinari and Carl Pettersson were tied for seventh, at 2 over. Peter Hanson was ninth, at 3 over.
Nicolas Colsaerts, Justin Rose and Garth Mulroy were 10th, 11th, and 12th.