Martin Kaymer ended the 2007 season by winning The Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year and began 2008 showing why, as he moved into the lead after the first round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
The 23 year old German carded an excellent six under par 66 to lead the way by a shot from Sweden’s Henrik Stenson with Stenson’s fellow Swede Robert Karlsson and Adam Scott of Australia in a share of third place after they opened with matching 68s.
“I’m delighted with that,” said Kaymer. “I had a long break from the game after the World Cup of last year and I couldn’t wait to get back out and play because it felt like such a long time since I’d been involved in a tournament.
“I played a lot of golf last year and towards the end of the year I just felt that all my energy was gone. I had to get the feeling back and that is why I took the break. I think it has been worth it though.
“I played very well today. It wasn’t that easy out there but I made a lot of good putts which helped. When I went out I saw Henrik’s score on the board and with the course the way it is I thought, ‘Wow, how did he do that’. Now I know!
Kaymer got off to the best possible start when he eagled his opening hole of the tournament and the year – the 554 yard tenth hole – with a stunning drive, a glorious rescue club second to six feet and one putt.
He was still two under par through the turn but his real push for glory came over his final stretch where – after birdieing the second – he racked up three birdies in his final five holes.
Kaymer’s afternoon delight took the shine off early leader Stenson who had, in the morning, given himself the ideal platform to complete a unique Gulf treble when he moved into the early lead after the first round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
The 31 year old Swede – who lives in nearby Dubai – was delighted with his 67 which gave him the ideal chance to keep his run of superb form in this part of the world going. For in 2006 he won the Commercialbank Qatar Masters and followed that with a victory in the Dubai Desert Classic last season.
“It is definitely one of my goals for the future to win this tournament and if it is in the very near future, ie Sunday night, then no one would be happier than me,” he said.
Robert Karlsson was the first man into a share of third place after his flawless 68, the towering Swede having the honour of being the only one of the players who ended the day in the top four spots, not to drop a shot to the Abu Dhabi course, a fair achievement given the increased rough and over more demanding nature of the course in this, the tournament’s third year.
Indeed Karlsson, who was pipped for the UBS Hong Kong Open on his last individual competitive outing, was steadiness personified for three quarters of his round, his only departures from par coming in a blistering stretch where he notched four birdies in five holes from the sixth.
The Swede was joined moments later on the 68 mark by Australian Adam Scott, the highest ranked player on the Official World Golf Ranking in the field, and the World Number Eight – who won in nearby Qatar in 2002 – admitted he was pleased with his start.
“Yes I’m delighted with that as it wasn’t that easy out there,” he said. “I stayed very patient and waited for my opportunities and I played a pretty solid round. In the middle there were a few good saves which kept everything ticking over and it was nice to finish with two birdies in my last three holes.”
The high quality field was illustrated by the three players who ended the day in a share of fifth place on three under par 69, the 2007 Maybank Malaysian Open champion Peter Hedblom alongside former European Number One Lee Westwood and Ignacioi Garrido, a former winner of the PGA Championship at Wentworth Club.
Further down the leaderboard, Open Champion Padraig Harrington battled back from an uncertain spell in his round to end with a level par 72 but there remains a bit of work to do for defending champion Paul Casey who struggled to come to terms with the putting surfaces on his way to an opening 75.