German beer fest at Sun City
Harare – Martin Kaymer and Bernard Langer turned the 2012 Nedbank Golf Challenge into a German beerfest at Sun City on Sunday by taking home both titles, and a cool US$1.5 million, as Africa brought the curtain down on another golfing year.
In the year that Ernie Els turned back the clock with a famous victory at the British Open at Royal Lytham, exactly 10 years after his last Major triumph in the same tournament at Muirfield – Africa could not provide a local winner for its Major at Sun City on Sunday.
There has not been one since 2007 when South African Trevor Immelman won the Nedbank Golf Challenge with an impressive 16-under-par total.
Local favourite Charl Swartzel could only finish second on a rain-swept day at Sun City, two strokes adrift of the winner.
It has been a good year for African golf with Els ending his 10-year Major drought in sensational fashion at Royal Lytham, keeping a cool head as Australia’s Adam Scott self-destructed, on an eventful final day, to win the British Open by a stroke.
Louis Oosthuizen came close to winning the Masters at Augusta National and finished tied with Bubba Watson, after 72 rounds, to go into a sudden death play-off that was decided on the second hole with the American holding on for his first Major.
The emergence of Brendan Grace, impressive on the European Tour this year, and Zimbabwean Brendon de Jonge, who competed very well on the US PGA, also showed the future of the game could be in very good hands.
It’s clear that the fans who converged at Sun City wanted a local winner on Sunday but Kaymer, the 27-year-old German who appeared to have lost his way after establishing himself as one of the top golfers in the world two years ago, held on for his deserved victory.
It completed back-to-back victories for the Germans as Langer, winner of the Nedbank Golf Challenge in 1985 and 1991, also won the Nedbank Champions Challenge the previous day.
Langer shot rounds of 68, 67 and 74 for a two-stroke victory over Jay Haas in a field that featured some of the game’s greatest golfers, Tom Watson and Ian Woosnam.
He took US$250 000 for winning the Nedbank Champions Challenge while his countryman, Kaymer, pocked a cool US$1 250 000 for winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
The 55-year-old Langer has had a huge influence on German golf, over the past two decades, after winning the Masters in 1985 and 1993, being ranked world number one and also being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2001.
No wonder why Kaymer was full of praise of his fellow countryman.
“Bernhard has been a massive help for me,” he told the Nedbank Golf Challenge official website after his triumph on Sunday.
“So, he has been a huge influence for me. There was a bit more pressure today because everyone was talking about the German double.
“But I’m very fortunate that everything worked out for me, and it’s obviously very nice from Bernhard that he called me straight away.”
Kaymer remembers the first time he came to South Africa, seven years ago, and how he ended up being blown away by the beauty of the Rainbow Nation.
The first time he came to South Africa was in 2005 to Fancourt with the German national side.
Incredibly, it’s Kaymer’s first title for the year and that is surprising given the heights he scaled two years ago when he powered to his first major and established himself as one of the top golfers in the world.
A triumph with Europe in the Ryder Cup win at Celtic Manor and success in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits all helped give Kaymer a place among the finest players around and he soared to the top of the world rankings.
But nothing can be taken for granted in the game and he has struggled; since last year, only showing glimpses of his old form although being part of the European team’s stunning triumph in the Ryder Cup in Chicago, where he sank the winning putt, must have boosted the confidence levels.
“That was a huge thing that happened to me at the Ryder Cup that I will never forget in my life,” he said.
“It gave me a lot of belief that I can win any tournament, because there will not be more pressure than that.”
There was pressure when Kaymer messed up his fine eagle on the par-five second, on the final day, with a double-bogey on the next hole to give the chasing pack the chance to sneak in.
In a flash there were now four players on five-under with the group featuring Schwartzel, Bill Haas and Louis Oosthuizen.
“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,” he said.
“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.”