Martin Kaymer admitted to being shocked after he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory to hand world No 357 Gary Stal the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship title.
Kaymer carried a six-shot lead going into yesterday’s final round and extended his advantage to eight shots after birdies at three of his first four holes, but it went downhill fast for the three-time winner soon after.
A bogey at the sixth hole, a double bogey at the ninth and a triple bogey at the 13th led to Kaymer’s demise and, although he stopped the rot with five successive pars, he ran out of holes with which to recover to gift Stal his maiden European title.
Reigning US Open champion Kaymer eventually finished third behind Stal and runner-up Rory McIlroy – with the German’s three-over-par 75 the joint worst of the day with England’s Andy Sullivan – and he admitted afterwards he was struggling to process his spectacular collapse.
“I’m surprised and a little shocked. I don’t really know how to put it into words,” he said.
“It was very, very surprising today. I started off well but then I hit a couple of bad tee shots and it cost me a double bogey and a triple bogey.
“I do miss fairways, but usually you get away with it okay, you don’t make double or triple bogey. But that is what happened today. Another thing was I didn’t make many putts. I missed a lot of putts and therefore it was very difficult for me to make birdies.”
Kaymer’s remarkable slump allowed Stal to pounce and the 22-year-old Frenchman promptly took the lead after Kaymer’s triple bogey thanks to six birdies in his first 11 holes.
McIlroy carded a final-round 66 to claim the runners-up spot, while Sheffield’s Danny Willett (70 71 71 72) had a consistent event.