Even a first win in more than a year and a beefy $1.25m (£780,000) cheque could not better that Ryder Cup moment for Martin Kaymer. The German held on through the final five holes at the Nedbank Golf Challenge for a two-shot victory at a rainy Sun City yesterday, giving him something else to take from 2012 along with his match-winning putt back in September.
"I will still never do a bigger putt in my life," Kaymer said, remembering Medinah minutes after securing his first Nedbank triumph.
Kaymer finished with an eight-under par 280 ahead of South Africa's Charl Schwartzel in second. Kaymer and Schwartzel both closed with 69s, but Schwartzel's bogey on the 17th after closing to within one shot eventually gave Kaymer enough breathing space.
"It was always tight. Charl played a great round of golf," Kaymer said, adding he only felt comfortable once his par-putt on 18 had dropped to confirm his victory. "I was telling [my caddie] 'I need a win. I need a win in 2012'."
Kaymer was twice in trouble towards the end, first pulling his tee shot deep into the rough on the par-five 14th. He blasted out through the trees and into the middle of the fairway and eventually made a brilliant birdie. He then bogeyed No 15 to allow Schwartzel to move within one, but recovered his composure with pars on the last three to close out a first win since the WGC HSBC Champions in November 2011.
Schwartzel had three birdies, including one at 14, but a bogey five at 17 eventually saw another Nedbank slip away from the home favourite, who was still looking for his first success after four attempts. American Bill Haas was third on three-under, a shot ahead of Kaymer's final-round playing partner, South African Louis Oosthuizen, who was fourth on two-under. Two-time defending champion Lee Westwood's run at Sun City ended with a 73 for a one-under 287 total and fifth place.
The rest of the 12-man field were all over par at a tough Gary Player Country Club layout, where narrow fairways, stubborn rough, gusty winds and – yesterday – steady rain made scoring consistently difficult. No one shot better than 69 all week.
Kaymer eagled the par-five second hole, double-bogeyed the third, then had three birdies before his crucial recovery on the 14th. Deep in trouble, he found his way out of the bushes and put his third to within 10 feet. He made the birdie putt to ensure he had enough of an advantage through the closing holes.
Kaymer's long-awaited win came after restructuring his swing and at the end of a memorable year. He also completed a German double at Sun City after Bernhard Langer won the seniors' event on Saturday.
Westwood's attempt to become the first player to win three straight Nedbank titles ended at the telling 14th hole, where the Englishman took two shots to get out of the rough, then found the bunker and missed a bogey putt to come away with a challenge-ending double-bogey seven. Behind him, Paul Lawrie was sixth on one-over 289 after a 74, Francesco Molinari and Carl Pettersson were tied for seventh on two-over and Peter Hanson was ninth on three-over.
Nicolas Colsaerts, Justin Rose and Garth Mulroy were 10th, 11th, and 12th.