Machine-like Kaymer grinds down his rivals

German on brink of becoming world No 2 as his desert love affair continues
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The Independent Online

Even the sun struggles to rise in this desert with the monotony of Martin Kaymer. Today the German takes a five-stroke lead into the final round of the Abu Dhabi Championship. A third trophy in four years is just one of the achievements that beckon.

It would take a golfing calamity to deny him the world No 2 spot. Kaymer is 10 shots clear of eighth here and needs only a top-seven placing to climb from world No 3. Tiger Woods is continuing to be self-delusional if he does not yet realise he will start his season at Torrey Pines on Thursday in his worst ranking position for seven years.

What will the No 2 spot mean to Kaymer? "There's one more to go," said the USPGA champion. After a 66 he had every right to be confident. Particularly on a National course where his form-line should soon resemble something out of Red Rum's scrapbook: 1-2-1-1. For his last 15 rounds here, Kaymer is 74-under. And, in many respects, this year has featured the highlight of the run.

"The great thing is I've made only one bogey so far this week, and that was on the third hole of the first day," said Kaymer. "For some reason this golf course likes me."

Like? Try total infatuation. "I wouldn't say he is unbeatable," said Rory McIlroy. "But he will be very hard to beat. He is very, very good on this golf course. And he's always good when leading from the front."

Not that McIlroy is throwing in the towel, no matter how tempted he might be. Last year, he also played in the final group with Kaymer. He began one behind, but a 67 was still not good enough. In all likelihood, McIlroy will need to reproduce the 62 which won him his first US title at Quail Hollow last May. It will take something that spectacular, regardless of Kaymer's plea for realism.

"You know, I'm not a machine, I'm not a robot, I can shoot a bad score as well," said Kaymer. "No, I haven't shot too many bad scores on this course – but anything can happen."

He should forgive us our faith. A quick word with his coach, Peter Cowen, suggests his motion could indeed make an android envious. "His swing is safe, it is constant," said the Yorkshireman, referring to what he labelled "Kaymer's strong fade". "In fact, Martin's created a massive constant there. Obviously, it makes him incredibly consistent."

But there is more. Cowen, whoalso coaches the world No 1 Lee Westwood and US Open champion Graeme McDowell, talks of Kaymer's putting in reverential tones. Backing all this up is an unwavering mindset. "I think his best quality is his attitude," said McIlroy. "I was talking to Martin at the start of the week and I asked him, 'What did you get up to over Christmas?' He said he was in Arizona, where he didn't touch a club for a few weeks. 'But I got guilty,' he told me. 'So I had go out and hit some'. I told him, 'I didn't touch a club for six weeks. I didn't feel guilty at all'."

Nevertheless, Kaymer still felt rusty when he arrived here. "I'm very surprised with the way I've played," he said. "If I do become No 2, it will be nice. I consider Tiger Woods the best player in the world, the best golfer to have ever lived. And to be in front of him for a week, or a month, would make me happy, for sure."

The mood in the United States would offer a stark contrast. Nobody would ever have imagined the top two players in the world not being members of the US Tour. McIlroy's beginning might only add to their gloom, as the 21-year-old has also decided not to take up his American card. "That's why, no matter what happens tomorrow it's been a successful week," he said, after a 30-foot eagle putt on the last capped a fine 65. "As long as I give it 100 per cent I'll be happy. There were certain points last year when I didn't feel as if I gave it 100 per cent."

An early-morning final round at Wentworth sticks in his mind. In his words he "didn't give it my all". "That's something I really want to change this year," he added. That is the least Kaymer expects. He is not alone in recognising a shortfall in McIlroy wins (one) since his breakthrough victory in Dubai two years ago.

"I am very, very surprised Rory hasn't won more tournaments," said Kaymer. "There's that little bit extra missing at the moment. But give him a few more years on Tour and Rory's prime time will come. He will definitely be the world No 1 one day."

Yet that day will not be today. Not if Kaymer's outrageous hot streak is anything to go by. He is not just the horse for this course, but a thoroughbred with his first major behind him and the European Order of Merit last year. As Cowen says, his pupil is right at the game's vanguard.

"Martin is 26," he said. "He's got another 15 years. How many majors? How many do you want? What will be great, is that if Woods does get back to his best the likes of Kaymer and Westwood can challenge him."

Except in Abu Dhabi, of course. There seems nobody capable of challenging Kaymer here.

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