Former world number one Martin Kaymer insists last year’s amazing collapse will not ruin his bid for a fourth victory in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Kaymer held a six-shot lead after 54 holes and extended his advantage to 10 shots with three birdies in the first four holes of the final round, only to drop six shots in seven holes around the turn.
The Ryder Cup star eventually carded a closing 75 to finish third behind world number 357 Gary Stal, who surged through the field with a 65 to claim his first European Tour title, with Rory McIlroy finishing second for the fourth time in the event.
Kaymer did not win a tournament in 2015 and lost his PGA Tour card for this season after failing to qualify for the FedEx Cup play-offs meant he did not play enough events, but the 31-year-old German said afterwards he was “glad” to have a new experience to learn from.
“You have the choice to talk negatively or positively and I chose the positive,” the two-time major winner said. “You need to ask yourself the right questions. That is what’s very important. You need to be very honest with yourself and find out a solution why that happened and find answers, and I certainly did.
“Of course, once in a while you do think about it. It’s just human and very normal. And I’m sure it might happen this week, as well. When I played the back nine today (Tuesday), Craig (Connelly, his caddie) and I talked about a few things that happened and it’s okay for me to talk about it because it’s an experience and part of what happened for me here in Abu Dhabi.
“But at the end of the day I don’t want that this overshadows my whole success and the great experiences and emotions I’ve had on the golf course. I don’t want that.
“It was only two hours; I had 50, 55 other great hours here before on the golf course, so I’d rather focus on that. This was my first tournament ever that I won on the European Tour (in 2008). What every child, what every teenager when they try to turn pro, that is what they dream of and that was the place where I could celebrate and fulfil that dream.”
Stal finished fourth in Dubai a fortnight after his shock victory and recorded one other top-10 finish in 2015, but admitted he struggled to come to terms with his new status.
“It’s kind of a common phenomenon that when you win, you deal with things that you’re not used to,” the world number 136 said. “I continued to practice and work hard, and I just have to accept that it will come back again. But for that period of time, it was something new and I had to deal with it. I feel now that I’m ready for the next step again.”
World number one Jordan Spieth is making his debut in a regular European Tour event in Abu Dhabi and has been paired with McIlroy and Rickie Fowler for the first two rounds, with Stal, Kaymer, and world number five Henrik Stenson in the group behind.
Stenson admits the form of Spieth, McIlroy, Fowler and US PGA champion Jason Day means he only has a few years left to achieve his career goals, especially after undergoing keyhole surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee in December.
“I don’t feel old, but the body certainly starts to feel it I guess,” said Stenson, who turns 40 in April. “In my mind I’m still probably somewhere mentally between 15 and 18 and I’ll try and stay that way for as long as possible. But, of course, it’s normal. Every sport develops and the young players now they are better at an earlier age. You have all the technology and all the help that you can get to become even better, quicker and the competition is tougher.
“I don’t think I have forever, that’s for sure, to accomplish what I want to do. It has to happen in the next three of four years, I’m pretty certain of that.”
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