Sport360 brings you a light-hearted look at the world of golf; this week, Martin Kaymer beats Martin Kaymer, Tiger Woods’ does his best Captain Jack Sparrow impression and an underwater hole-in-one.
When Martin Kaymer—and not just Martin Kaymer, but Martin Kaymer in full-on destroy-the-field-mode—throws away a tournament, it’s time to reconsider a few things you previously assumed to be certainties.
Next thing you know a 12-point lead with three minutes left won’t mean anything in the NFL, for example, or perhaps Arsenal will just go ahead and beat Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
As if. These things just do not happen.
Except, on Sunday, they all did, with Kaymer’s collapse the first to unravel before our disbelieving eyes. It took five holes of the final round at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship for the German, who already held the lead, to reach 24-under par—as low as any player has ever gone in the tournament (and that was Kaymer as well). All the German had to do was hold the club at the right end for the rest of the round and he would win, or so it seemed, until a couple of bad shots cost him dearly, and suddenly down the stretch his swing deserted him entirely.
A run-in with a bush around the turn saw him scatter a few shots, and suddenly his iron play became not quite so precise and his putting uncharacteristically tentative. By the time he reached the 18th his demeanour gave the game away—a tournament that seemed his from sometime around Thursday afternoon had slipped from his grasp.
“I don’t really know how to put it into words,” Kaymer said afterwards, having shot a final round 75 that was about five shots worse than the average for the day. “It was very, very surprising today. I started off well and hit a couple bad tee shots and cost me double‑bogey and a triple‑bogey.
“Twice I missed the grass and I was in a bush. Had to drop it in the sand. I haven’t done that all week long. Unfortunately I did today, and therefore, it cost me the tournament.”
The beneficiary of Kaymer’s collapse was not Rory McIlroy, who incorrectly assumed his chance of victory had gone after a round of 71 on Saturday (what Kaymer would have given for that score 24 hours later!). Instead it was world No. 357 Gary Stal who (barely) held his nerve to claim the title, far and away the biggest of the young Frenchman’s career.
Stal was clearly, and rather endearingly, overwhelmed by the moment, breaking down in tears even before he had signed his scorecard.
“I thought about all the people that were looking at me,” Stal said later. “I thought about my mother, Christine, who died in May while I was playing Wentworth [at the BMW PGA Championship]. She passed away while I was playing, and I thought about her a lot, obviously.”
In its 10th year as an event, we would say that having an unknown player like Stal come through and steal the victory completes a sort of rite of passage for the tournament … except Robert Rock already beat McIlroy and Tiger Woods to win the event three years ago (that’s slightly unfair on Rock, who already had the best hair in the sport long before he won the biggest tournament of his career). But it did at least make a refreshing change, with Kaymer previously threatening to make the event his personal moneymaker as McIlroy, for once, trailed in his shadow.
This was another example of the fine margins and complex psychology involved in golf at this level: Kaymer thought he had things under control and then, tapped off course by the vagaries of fate, one unfortunate bounce sent things spinning off in another direction.
Stal, on paper at least, was one of the least likely competitors to capitalise on that misfortune—inexperienced at this level and not used to competing down the back nine on Sunday, especially against some of the world’s best—yet, precisely because he thought he had no chance to win the tournament, he blindly played his way into a position where, as long as he held his nerve, he would not be caught.
“This morning, I thought about second place, I didn’t think about first place. When I saw the leaderboard at the 5th hole, I saw Martin Kaymer on 24‑under, and I said, ‘it’s not possible to win,’” he acknowledged. “But when I saw the leaderboard on the 16th green, I saw Martin Kaymer and 17‑under, so in my head, I said, ‘it’s possible, you can do it.’”
And do it he did, endearing himself him in his post-round press commitments with his stuttering English (our favourite line being: “My favourite golfer when I was young was Tiger Woods … but now, too, it’s Tiger Woods”).
He has a long, long way to emulate his favourite golfer. But this was a memorable start and, as Kaymer’s collapse conclusively proved, anything in this game is possible.
Legendary skier Lindsey Vonn completed a remarkable turnaround on Sunday, overcoming some remarkable obstacles to equal a long-standing record that has always been her target. We cannot fathom why that might be a storyline that would resonate with Vonn’s boyfriend, Tiger Woods, who surprised his other half by turning up at the event to celebrate her crowning moment—surpassing a 35-year-old World Cup downhill record with her 63nd win, having overcome two separate serious knee injuries to do so.
Tiger had a surprise of his own on Sunday, as a couple of photos that emerged from the post-race celebrations revealed that he has recently lost his left front tooth. In other photos the missing canine was covered by a bizarre skeleton bandana, a grinning visage covering the lower part of his face. Considering the conditions it initially seemed the bandana was a rather bizarre fashion statement to combat against the cold, but in light of the missing tooth it seems it might, just might, be a little joke—even if he did not plan for the missing tooth to be caught on camera.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) January 20, 2015
Long-time, borderline obsessive observers of Mr. Woods (*stands up, waves to the galleries*) will be aware that Tiger’s left canine has long been a “dead” tooth (indeed almost every since he turned professional) the discolourment obvious even as the American went on to have his teeth whitened as his career earnings started to allow for that sort of extravagance. Perhaps this was the natural next step, then, to have the old tooth removed and replaced by one that matches the rest of the colour palette.
Not so, according to Woods’ agent, who claimed on Monday that the tooth—which he seemed to suggest was already false—had actually been knocked out by a rogue camera during the melee after Vonn’s triumph.
That does seem more plausible than the idea that Woods has a sense of humour (or would willingly go out in public with a missing tooth), although still does not completely convince—surely another camera would have caught the incident or its aftermath, and surely Woods would not have been looking so unaffected by things (would there not also have been some blood?!).
Regardless, attention now turns to what will fill the gap. Maybe Tiger is going to surprise us all. Personally we would love to see him get a gold tooth—a la Captain Jack Sparrow—or maybe he’ll just leave it be, becoming a walking advertisement for bleeding gum disease awareness. We can only hope.
There were four holes-in-one during this week’s Abu Dhabi Championship, including a first for Rory McIlroy. In that spirit, then, this week we leave you with a video that will make you feel especially sad if you have never had an ace.
And even if, like McIlroy, you have tasted the sweet joy of scoring an ace you will still probably feel a little sad watching this, considering you almost certainly did not get it on an underwater hole.
The makers of this video believe it to be a world first. We believe them to be right, if only because surely no one else has gone to such lengths to attempt it before…
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