Martin Kaymer will become the Number One golfer on the planet today, completing a meteoric rise to the summit of the professional game.
The 26 year old from Düsseldorf will replace Lee Westwood at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking after reaching the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona, where he will face England’s Luke Donald, who beat American Matt Kuchar 6&5 in the day’s other semi-final.
Kaymer’s one up victory over American Bubba Watson, the man he also beat in a play-off to win the US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits last year, was sufficient to propel him to the Number One spot – almost 25 years to the month since his highly-decorated countryman, Bernhard Langer, became the first person, and only other German, to head the newly-created Ranking in April 1986.
Kaymer’s elevation caps a remarkable week for European golf, with Europeans now occupying at least the top three places in the Ranking – and the top four if Donald were to prevail in today’s final – for the first time in 19 years.
While Kaymer and Westwood will switch places, Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell will move to a career-high third place unless Donald wins, in which case he would occupy third and the Ulsterman would take fourth.
The last time that Europe enjoyed such riches was on March 15, 1992, when the formidable quartet of Ian Woosnam, Sir Nick Faldo, José Maria Olazábal and Seve Ballesteros filled the leading four positions.
As he prepared to face his Ryder Cup team-mate Donald in the 18-hole final at Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Dove Mountain, an ecstatic Kaymer said: “I definitely need some time to think about it and let it sink in – the good thing is next week I don’t have a tournament, so maybe then I’ll be able to appreciate what I’ve done. But what I can say for sure is that it’s an incredibly proud moment. Not only for me, but also for my family, for the people who have helped me, and obviously for Germany and also The European Tour. To be only the second German after Bernhard Langer, who was my role model when I was growing up, is a very special feeling.
“Like I say, it probably won’t hit me until Monday, but when the new World Ranking is published I’m definitely going to take a picture with my name at the top. It doesn’t feel real to me at the moment, but maybe when I see it in writing then I’ll start to believe I’m the best golfer in the world. Not many people can say they’re the best player in the world at their sport, so I feel very honoured and privileged. It’ll feel extra special if I manage to beat Luke in the final, because then I will really feel that I deserve it.”
While two-time Major Champion Langer was the first to ascend to the summit – staying there for a further two weeks – Kaymer is only the 14th player, and the sixth European, to fill that coveted position in the quarter of a century since the World Ranking was devised.
Since turning professional in 2005 and winning on his debut on the European Challenge Tour the following year, Kaymer has gone from strength to strength in a remarkably short space of time, winning nine times on The European Tour International Schedule with his most recent victory coming by eight shots at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship – an event he has won three times.
That debut Challenge Tour win in August 2006 hoisted Kaymer from 1249th in the world to 480th. Since then, his progress has been little short of stupendous. He ended 2006 in 164th place then made rapid strides to 76th (2007), 25th (2008), 13th(2009) and third at the end of 2010, the season in which he made his Major breakthrough and played in his first Ryder Cup.
Now Kaymer, who won last year’s Race to Dubai and will climb to the top of the current Rankings if he defeats Donald in today’s final, has graduated from European to World Number One with an almost effortless grace. In the process, Kaymer, at 26 years and nine weeks, becomes the second youngest player behind Tiger Woods (21 years and 24 weeks) to reach World Number One.
He follows in the illustrious footsteps of Langer, Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam, Sir Nick Faldo and Westwood as the only Europeans to reach golf’s pinnacle.