The German Machine

During last year’s Ryder Cup in Wales, German, Martin Kaymer, was asked if Bernhard Langer, Germany’s most successful PGA Tour player, had given him any words of wisdom. He said that Langer told him, “You have to tell yourself that you’re one of the best players in the world, the Americans don’t want to play you and you deserve to be there.”

That advice continues to pay dividends. After going 2-1-1 in the Ryder Cup, he’s ascended to Number 3 in the World Rankings and, with one round to go, is currently destroying the field at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

He leads by five strokes over #12, Rory McIlroy. Making that more impressive is that McIlroy shot 7-under, 65 and still couldn’t catch him. That’s because Kaymer shot 6-under with a flawless, 6-birdie card. In fact, Kaymer’s only blemish for the first three days was a single bogey on his third hole in the first round. But was he worried? Hardly, he was already 2-under at that point having birdied his first two holes. Doing the math, he’s made 17 birdies since then. The difference in their scores? The 5 additional bogeys that McIlroy made.

Adding spice to the pot, but not really threats at this point are World #23, Charl Schwartzel from South Africa and #4, Graeme McDowell, last year’s U.S. Open Champion from Northern Ireland. Since Schwartzel’s 21st place finish in the season-ending Dubai World Championship, he’s finished 2, 4, 4 and 1st in his last four. So he won’t win this week, but with the strength in this field, his cachet and world ranking will definitely rise.

Why tomorrow’s final round will be interesting from a mastery point of view is that, with the comfort of such a commanding lead and his nearly flawless play so far, Kaymer continues to confirm Langer’s assertion that he is one of the best players in the world. It will be great to watch his full-throated, fully self-expressed confirmation of that. Just to see the ease and the flow of it all will be something.

And if he does manage to win tomorrow, he will knock the idle Tiger out of second place in the World Rankings. This seems to have all happened very quickly for him.

The replay of the final round will be on the Golf Channel at 8:30 AM (Eastern).

The Bob Hope Cut

The leaders, Greg Chalmers, Gary Woodland and Jhonattan Vegas are clustered at 18-under par. They respectively shot 65, 64 and 67 yesterday, so it’s too soon to hazard a guess at who will win.

So my interest today is watching for the results of the little drama I wrote about in, “You Bet Your Week,” the fact that because the Hope is a four-round pro-am with the pros dashing for the cash in the fifth, the cut to low 70 and ties doesn’t come until after today’s fourth round. So are you going to make a check this week or did you play four rounds “for the memories?”

At this writing, for example, after shooting a second round 74, Chris DiMarco is 2-under through two holes, but still one shot out of making the projected cut. Other name players within striking distance are Lee Janzen, Paul Stankowski, Stewart Cink, Chad Campbell and last week’s winner at the Sony Open, Mark Wilson.

Who will be able to take reality in…and then relax and just play. They all can, but who will?

The broadcast begins this afternoon at 4:00 PM (Eastern).

Champions Tour Kickoff

And finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the beginning of the Champions Tour season with the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at the Hualalai Resort on Kona, Hawaii.

The 54-hole event offers a $1.8 million purse and is open to Champions Tour major championship winners of the last five years, official tournament winners from the last two years, seven sponsor invitees reserved for players with a minimum of 30 combined career victories between the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour or 15 combined victories with at least one major title and one sponsor choice with 10-plus wins and one major championship. So, the crème de la crème. Worth watching for that alone.

Russ Cochran bolted out of the gate shooting a sizzling 62 with 2 eagles and 6 birdies. Surprisingly, Ben Crenshaw, who devotes most of his attention to his thriving course architecture firm, is two back and tied with Tom Watson. And there are a slew of “names” within five shots of the lead: Jeff Sluman, Bernhard Langer, Tom Lehman, Mark O’Meara, John Cook, Tom Kite and Ryder Cup Captain, Corey Pavin.

The course is 7,053 yards long and while they might be playing some “up” tees, a quick skim of the hole-by-hole yardage based on my former days playing in Monday qualifiers, didn’t turn up any holes this field would need to have shortened. So, some playin’ by them boys!

The replay of today’s round will be on the Golf Channel tonight at 12:30 AM (Eastern).

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