The European Tour scaled unprecedented heights when Martin Kaymer captured his first Major Championship at Whistling Straits.
Kaymer’s victory in the US PGA Championship brought down the curtain on an exceptional year for European Tour Members in the Majors – with, for the first time, three separate players holding three of the world’s four biggest titles.
The historic successes of Graeme McDowell in the US Open at Pebble Beach, Louis Oosthuizen in The Open at St Andrews and now Kaymer at Whistling Straits – plus the close calls in Majors by Lee Westwood, Gregory Havret and Rory McIlroy – further emphasise the incredible strength and potency of The European Tour at the current time.
Kaymer’s play-off victory over US Ryder Cup rookie Bubba Watson was the 16th win by a non-American player on the US PGA Tour in 2010 and confirmed beyond doubt the wisdom of The European Tour in undertaking their expansion programme to take the professional game global almost 30 years ago.
George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, hailed the harvest of Major titles reaped in a thrilling 2010 season. He commented: “It is deeply rewarding to see three of the four Major Championships reside in the capable hands of three first-time Major Champions in Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer.
“Their victories highlight the far-sightedness of my predecessor, Ken Schofield, in enabling our Members to gain access to the Major Championships and, in fact, the vision of those administrators at the Masters, the USGA, the PGA of America and, of course, the PGA Tour, for granting such unrestricted access to players from all over the world.”
O’Grady also paid tribute to all the Tour’s loyal promoters and sponsors, whose dedication and enthusiasm over the years helped hugely in the development and maturity of many European Tour players, including the outstanding class of 2010.
He added: “Every one of our promoters and sponsors should feel a huge sense of pride and take considerable satisfaction for knowing they have played their part in helping to elevate Graeme, Louis and Martin where they are today – as major players on the world stage.”
Kaymer, the 2007 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year, built his reputation with a wire-to-wire maiden victory in the 2008 Abu Dhabi Golf Championship before a sentimental win on home turf in the 20th anniversary BMW International Open in Munich later that season moved him into the World's Top 50. Back-to-back successes followed in 2009 at the Alstom Open de France and The Barclays Scottish Open, and while a foot injury perhaps harmed his chances of winning the inaugural Race to Dubai, he began 2010 by winning the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship for a second time to set up a year to remember.
McDowell also had an explosive start to life on The European Tour, establishing himself in 2002 by winning the Scandinavian Masters on his fourth start as an Affiliate Member. Further success came in the Italian Open in 2004 but it was 2008 that cemented his reputation.
The Northern Irishman produced a sublime seven iron approach to win on the third extra hole in the Ballantine's Championship - much to the satisfaction of one his main sponsors - and he went on to capture The Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond on his way to a Ryder Cup debut in Valhalla.
After triumphing on this year's Ryder Cup Course in The Celtic Manor Wales Open, Major success followed at Pebble Beach, where he edged out fellow European Havret in June.
Like Kaymer and McDowell, Oosthuizen had also laid the foundation for his maiden Major victory with success earlier in the 2010 season, finishing runner up in the Trophée Hassan II before making his European Tour breakthrough on his next start in the Open de Andalucia de Golf.
Further glory awaited the South African as he marched to victory over the Old Course at St Andrews to claim the Claret Jug, capping a remarkable rise from the Challenge Tour where both Oosthuizen and Kaymer cut their teeth.
In addition to the role of promoters and sponsors, the USGA has showed willingness to embrace the globalisation of the game by creating an International Qualifying Competition in the UK, a move which reaped an immediate dividend in 2005 when New Zealand’s Michael Campbell qualified at Walton Heath and promptly captured the US Open title.
Major Championships may have been in short supply for European Tour Members in the early part of the new century, but the last three years has seen Padraig Harrington land three Majors, Angel Cabrera two and Trevor Immelman one, as the weekly competition on The European Tour has grown in strength and depth.
Westwood was denied at Augusta National by an inspired Phil Mickelson in the Masters and a composed Oosthuizen at St Andrews while McIlroy continues to edge closer to his first Major by finishing in tied third place in the last two Majors of the year.
It all bodes well for the climax to The Race to Dubai in November, with Kaymer and McDowell occupying the top two positions and Oosthuizen in sixth behind Westwood (third), Ernie Els (fourth) and Charl Schwartzel (fifth).
Roll on the Majors of 2011….