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He’s risen to No. 2 in the World Golf Ranking, but there’s little evidence to suggest that Martin Kaymer isn’t the best golfer in the world right now. Kaymer dominated a world-class field, winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championshipby eight shots and in the process passing Tiger Woods into the No. 2 spot in the computer rankings. The reigning PGA champion is firing on all cylinders; his winning margin was the biggest in the tournament’s history, and his score also set a tournament record.
Golf is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world, and lately, Kaymer’s done more than enough to surpass the player he considers to be the best in history.
“He’s probably the best player in the world, or the best player that ever lived,” Kaymer said of Woods. “To be in front of him for a little bit, we’ll see how long it takes him to overtake me again, but you know, it makes me very proud to be better in the World Rankings than, for me, the best player in the world.”
Kaymer and World No. 1 Lee Westwood are at the vanguard of a new Golden Age in European golf. Westwood and Kaymer join reigning U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell, who finished tied for third at Abu Dhabi, and second-place finisher Rory McIlroy in comprising a Big Four that surpasses any foursome the U.S. could currently muster. At the very least, European golf is in its strongest position since Bernhard Langer and Nick Faldo were winning majors in the early 1990s.
“Yeah, I think it was 1993 when Langer and Faldo were leading the World Rankings,” Kaymer said, recounting a brief history lesson regarding the top Euro one-two punches. “I think for Lee and me, it’s a very nice position to be; to be No. 1 and 2 in the world, you can see how strong European golf became the last few years. And not only through the Ryder Cup, just if you have a look at the major winners last year, Graeme McDowell, almost every week he had a chance to win the tournament.
“It's just a matter of time that Rory wins a big, big tournament somewhere. He won in Quail Hollow last year already, but I think he will win plenty of majors in his career, so you can see at the European golf, it’s getting better and better, which is just nice to see; that there’s always a great challenge. Of course, the PGA Tour in America is a fantastic tour, but I think our tour, we don’t have to hide anywhere.”
On the contrary — Kaymer’s talent and that of his cohorts is plain for everyone to see.
McDowell used his T3 finish to pass Phil Mickelson into fourth place in the World Rankings, although Lefty sounded his familiar refrain — rankings aren’t important, but majors are. “I think it’s interesting and it's certainly a goal of all players to get up on top of the world rankings, but I think it’s more interesting to see how it plays out in the majors,” he said. “I’m not as concerned with the rankings as some. ... I’m more concerned with getting my game ready for the majors.”
Here Comes Tiger
Woods’ fall to No. 3 in the world comes just as he’s making his 2011 debut at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, a course where he’s won the last five times he’s played. Will the world rankings provide motivation? Probably, as will his desire for validation after another round of swing changes and a long winless drought. A recent Tweet seems to indicate that he’s ready: “I’ve been working hard on my game, it’s game time hooah!!”
Boo Weekley knows about as much about the winner of the Bob Hope Classic as anyone else. “I ain’t got a clue,” Weekley said about his fellow second-round co-leader Jhonattan Vegas. “That’s y’all’s job. My job is just to play golf.”
We’ll all have to get to know Vegas a little better after the unknown Venezuelan overcame a missed 9-footer that would have won in regulation and then a drive that found the water in the playoff to become the first rookie to win the Bob Hope and the first Venezuelan to win a PGA Tour event.
It was a stirring win for a guy who’s had to scrap for everything growing up in a nation that has recently seen leader Hugo Chavez decry golf as a game for the rich. “Life for me hasn't been always the best,” Vegas said. “I had to fight to get where I am. I’m a fighter, and if I set a goal in front of me, I’m just going to die just to get there, and fight hard to accomplish what I set out in my mind.”