Ryder Cup duo make history by sharing top billing

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Graeme McDOWELL and Martin Kaymer have been voted joint winners of the 2010 European Tour Golfer of the Year award – the first time the prize has been shared in its 26-year history.

Both players won their first major titles – McDowell at the US Open, Kaymer at the US PGA – both won four times and both were members of the victorious Ryder Cup side.

It was the 25-year-old German who took the 'Race to Dubai' money list title, but against that McDowell was, of course, the match-winning hero against the Americans at Celtic Manor in October.

A judging panel of writers and commentators debated the many merits of the pair, but when it came to the vote the result was split right down the middle.

There has never been a season quite like it for the European Tour, with South African Louis Oosthuizen becoming Open champion at St Andrews, Lee Westwood taking over from Tiger Woods as world No 1 and Ian Poulter, Ernie Els and Francesco Molinari all winning World Golf Championship events.

McDowell, who on Sunday beat Tiger Woods in a play-off in the Chevron World Challenge in America, commented: "I am truly humbled to accept this coveted award.

"It is the icing on the cake on what has been a very special year for myself, Martin and everyone involved in European golf.

"It is an honour to share this award with a player of Martin's calibre. He is one of the best players of our generation and I am sure will enjoy many more successes in the years to come.

"I achieved many of my dreams this season and feel fortunate to have enjoyed some very special moments. However, the highlight of the year for me was being a part of the winning European Ryder Cup team.

"There is nothing quite like the atmosphere of the Ryder Cup and the experience of playing for both your team-mates and the European fans under the most extreme pressure.

"I hope that I am lucky enough to play in many more successful teams in the future."

McDowell's winning run began with victory in the Wales Open in June on the 'Twenty Ten Course' where he would play such a pivotal role in the Ryder Cup four months later.

Like Kaymer, he then went on to pick up his first major, an emotional success in the US Open at Pebble Beach where his dad Kenny was on hand, on Fathers' Day, to see his son become the first European golfer to win the title in 40 years, since Tony Jacklin triumphed at Hazeltine National in 1970.

His third victory came in the Andalucia Valderrama Masters at the end of October.

Sandwiched between his victories in the United States and Spain was his second Ryder Cup appearance and one which ended in nail-biting fashion as, in the last singles out on the course, he was handed the task

of getting Europe over the winning line which he achieved with a thrilling 3 and 1 victory over Hunter Mahan which saw Colin Montgomerie's team win 14-13 .

Like Kaymer, he contributed two-and-a-half points overall to the European cause.

Kaymer, 25, captured the Abu Dhabi Championship at the start of the season and three tournaments in a row during a stunning autumn spell, a run which began with his first major victory when he came from behind in a three-hole play-off at Whistling Straits to beat American Bubba Watson to the US PGA title.

He followed that with a win on his return to competitive stroke-play action in the KLM Open in the Netherlands before triumphing in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland.

In the midst of his triumphant autumn, he also made his Ryder Cup debut, which included a vital fourball victory in the first match of the contest, in partnership with Westwood, against Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson.

The German said: "This has been a truly great year for me and winning this award is the perfect ending.

"It is recognition for my performances in 2010 and to be voted for by the golfing media, the people who watch and report on our sport throughout the year, makes me feel very proud.

"I am always trying to follow in Bernhard Langer's footsteps and to see that I have now won an award that he was the first to win back in 1985 is very satisfying indeed. But he is still many steps ahead of me!

"Graeme deserves this recognition as much as I do."