Germany’s Martin Kaymer and Sweden’s Peter Hanson, two of Europe’s successful Ryder Cup team at Medinah, are men on a mission at this week’s WGC – HSBC Champions
Kaymer is looking to continue his resurgence when he defends his title at Mission Hills Golf Club, while Hanson has moved to within catching distance of the man he held off for victory last week, World Number One Rory McIlroy, in The Race to Dubai.
Former World Number One Kaymer produced one of the most stylish victories of the 2011 season to capture his first World Golf Championships crown 12 months ago, firing nine birdies in a closing round 63 to finish three shots clear of the chasing pack.
That was his second victory of the season after also winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in January, but swing changes introduced following that triumph meant his 2012 campaign has been more of a period of transition than success.
However, a share of fifth place in the BMW Italian Open presented by CartsSi followed by securing the point that retained The Ryder Cup for Europe last month hinted at a return to form, which was further underlined after finishing tied 11th in last week’s BMW Masters at Lake Malaren Golf Club.
Now Kaymer is looking to build on that performance against another world class field in China, as he defends his title over the Olazábal Course at Mission Hills, designed by Europe’s victorious Ryder Cup Captain.
“Last year was very nice,” he said. “I won in Abu Dhabi earlier in the year, which is another HSBC sponsored event, but then I was a bit flat after that and just waiting for the win, even though I was playing well enough.
“I had a great back nine on the Sunday – only 29 shots – so I have nice memories. Obviously it is a different golf course but the way I play I think I should have a chance.
“That was something special, to win the tournament in that style when you are five back going into the last round and end up winning by three shots. It was quite impressive and when things aren’t going your way, like at the moment when it tests your mental strength, it’s nice to remind yourself of those moments.”
One man who won’t have to cast his mind back too far for special memories is Hanson.
In fact, the Swede only has to go back a matter of hours to recall his very special victory at last week’s BMW Masters, where he saw off McIlroy to secure “the biggest win of my career”.
Hanson’s victory was worth a cool €888,560 and propelled him to second place in The Race to Dubai to make himself McIlroy’s closest pursuer with just four events of The European Tour season remaining.
With McIlroy not in action this week, Hanson can further close the gap at the head of the Race which currently stands at €812,572. Indeed, if the 35 year old can go all the way at Mission Hills, he would secure the €921,375 top prize and therefore overtake McIlroy entering The Race to Dubai’s final strait.
“I am moving closer to Rory in The Race to Dubai and the fact he is not at Mission Hills this week gives me a chance to close the gap even more. Hopefully I can keep this form going and be up there again on Sunday because I will need to keep playing like I did last week to have a chance of catching him given how well he is playing this year.”
The field for the final World Golf Championships event of the season includes reigning Major Champions Ernie Els and Bubba Watson, as well as World Number Five Justin Rose, who won the WGC-Cadillac Championship earlier this season, and who can also overtake McIlroy in pole position with victory on the Olazábal Course.
Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, ranked three and four in the world respectively, also head to Shenzhen, as does four-time Major Champion Phil Mickelson, who won the WGC-HSBC Champions title in the 2009 season.
Donald carded an impressive closing round 66 last week to finish third in Shanghai, and the Englishman believes he is in good form heading to Mission Hills.
“I’ve done a lot of work on my short game and it is starting to pay off so I’m looking forward to another good week,” he said. “I have three events left and this is a big event for me. If I can sneak a win that would really help me in the Race to Dubai.”