European Tour

As other high-profile golfers end winless droughts, Martin Kaymer must wait to join them

April 18, 2021

Martin Kaymer plays his third shot on the third hole during Sunday's final round of the Austrian Golf Open.

Andrew Redington

Martin Kaymer has achieved much in his professional career. World No. 1 in 2011. Winner of the 2010 PGA Championship and the 2014 U.S. Open. Players champion in 2014. Eleven European Tour victories. And four Ryder Cup appearances, including making the trophy-clinching putt for Europe in his second start at Medinah in 2012.

All good, but all some time ago. What the 36-year-old German has not done since June 2014 and that U.S. Open at Pinehurst is win a golf tournament.

But unlike Jordan Spieth (who ended a 1,351 day winless drought earlier this month at the Valero Texas Open), Hideki Matsuyama (1,344 days with his Masters win) and Lydia Ko (1,084 days after her Lotte Championship win on Saturday), the wait goes on for Kaymer, 2,499 days and counting.

Despite starting the final round of the Austrian Golf Open at the Diamond Country Club tied for the lead alongside Alejandro Canizares at nine under par, Kaymer’s closing round of 70 was good enough only for third place. Undone by a terrible start—he was three over par for the day after only three holes—the two-time major champion ended up three-shots out of the playoff won by American John Catlin over another German, Max Kieffer. It was Catlin’s third European Tour victory in his last 13 starts.

Kaymer’s problems on Sunday began as early as the opening par 5. Just short in two, he twice duffed chip-shots—long his golfing achilles’ heel—en route to an opening bogey. Indeed, by the eighth tee, Kaymer’s race was essentially run. Kieffer’s four birdies and an eagle in the opening seven holes put him six shots ahead of his teammate in the 2018 World Cup. At that stage, Catlin was four back.

Thereafter, Kaymer steadied himself, four birdies in his last six holes comfortably securing the bronz-medal position, three shots clear of the three players tied for fourth place. Although Kaymer tried to look on the bright side at the conclusion of his round, his frustration at spurning a gilt-edged opportunity for long-awaited victory surely outweighed any pleasure derived from his fast finish.

“I played really well the last 15 holes,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I threw myself out of the tournament after three holes, but it was obviously a disappointing start. Especially as I had played the opening three holes really well the first three days. I had a terrible lie on the first hole. But I should have been able to make five from there. And then a double bogey is always a screw-up. Overall though, It was a good week for me.”

As for the winner, this was Catlin’s third European Tour victory in the last eight months. And it was well-earned. The bogey-free 65 shot by the Californian was the low round of the final day. But only at the fifth time of asking at the 184-yard par-3 18th did the 30-year-old manage to separate himself from Kieffer, a man well used to lengthy playoffs. Eight years ago he came out second-best to Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin after nine extra holes at the Open de España. That remains Kieffer’s closest brush with victory in 216 European Tour starts.

“It’s always nice to win, but it was tough to watch Max find the water [three times] at that last hole,” said a magnanimous Catlin, who made an amazing up-and-down from sand to extend the playoff past the fourth extra-hole. “I had about a three-foot gap in which to land the ball on that bunker shot and I landed right in the middle of it. As soon as it bounced I knew it had a chance. To make a par from there was maybe a one-in-a-thousand shot. So to come out on top is something I will always cherish.”

Catlin also has much to look forward to. Rising into the world’s top-100 players will likely earn him a major championship debut in next month’s PGA Championship.

“I’d love to get a chance to play in the events I’ve always wanted to be a part of,” he said. “That’s been a goal of mine since I was a kid, to win a major championship. So it would be nice to have that opportunity.”