PGA Champion Kaymer wins Dunhill Links for his third straight victory

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Martin Kaymer stumbled down the stretch at St. Andrews during the British Open, but closed like a champion on Sunday to capture the Dunhill Links.
By
Mark Garrod
PA Sport

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Golf's newest major champion Martin Kaymer has become the first player to win three times in a row on the European Tour since Tiger Woods four years ago.

In bitterly cold and windy conditions at St. Andrews on Sunday, the 25-year-old German added the Dunhill Links title to the PGA Championship he took in a playoff in August and the KLM Open he ran away with in Holland last month.

But Lee Westwood could not make it a day of double celebration for Europe's Ryder Cup heroes.

Westwood needed a top-two finish to replace Woods as world No. 1, but struggling again with his leg injury he fell back from fifth to 11th with a 73 when a win or second-place finish would have boosted him to No. 1. However, the 37-year-old is pulling out of his title defense in this coming week's Portugal Masters -- and that makes it certain he will topple Woods at the end of this month.

For Kaymer, now up to world No. 4 and more than $1.2 million clear of Graeme McDowell at the top of the European Tour money list, it completed a dream week.

Six days after achieving another victory in his Ryder Cup debut at Celtic Manor, he produced a superb 6-under par 66 to beat Englishmen Danny Willett and John Parry -- Walker Cup teammates three years ago -- by three and four shots, respectively.

Willett threatened to spring an upset when he sank a 50-foot eagle putt from off the green at the long 14th to go into a tie for the lead.

But Kaymer wasted no time putting the 23-year-old from Yorkshire in his place. He followed him in from 25 feet for birdie, then made his own outrageous 40-footer from left of the 17th green. And though his final drive finished on Granny Clark's Wynd, the road crossing the 18th fairway, he hit his second off the tarmac to six feet and made it for yet another birdie.

Kaymer took the title with a 17-under-par aggregate of 271. It was his fourth win of the season -- and the last person to do that in Europe was also Woods in 2006.

"To make a 4 at the 17th feels like a birdie, so I don't know how I managed a 3," he said. "I just tried to focus on the putt."

And as for playing off the road, he added: "I was just trying to get it beyond the flag."

Although he described Monday night's celebrations as one of the best parties of his life -- it included karaoke, dancing and table tennis before he retired just before 3:00 a.m. -- Kaymer said he had no difficulty getting his focus straight back.

"I could feel the alcohol the next day, but I spoke to my dad on the phone and we talked about how I had to finish better than I did at the Open," he explained.

Kaymer finished seventh on the Old Course then, but closed with three successive bogeys. This time it was a magical birdie-birdie conclusion.

"It was always one of my dreams to win here,” Kaymer said. “I can still remember my first day here as an amateur, walking down the first hole and over the bridge -- it felt very special to me. If you would have given me a par on 17, I would have given you a lot of money -- that was more luck than skill."

As for three wins in a row, he added: "I'm surprised as well. I don't really have answer for why I am playing so well at the moment."

Parry led by two overnight and was one in front with nine to play, but he three-putted the 11th and 13th, then went in a gorse bush for a double-bogey 7 on the next.

"I lost all my momentum,” he lamented. “It's not like I bottled it. I just don’t think I was playing well enough on the day."

Willett has now had 16 top-10 finishes on the circuit. This was his seventh of the season, but the nearest he has come to winning so far.

"I'm getting there,” he said. “I just need to keep putting myself in contention."