• Abu Dhabi Championship

Kaymer blows 10-shot lead to hand Stal maiden title

ESPN staff
January 18, 2015
Gary Stal is in his second season on the European Tour © Getty Images

Martin Kaymer blew a six-shot overnight lead to hand unheralded Frenchman Gary Stal his first win on the European Tour at the Abu Dhabi Championship in a frantic final round on Sunday.

Kaymer looked like cruising to a fourth title in Abu Dhabi after making three birdies in his opening four holes, even threatening his record of 24-under from 2011, but a bogey at six - his first dropped shot 47 holes at Abu Dhabi Golf Club - was followed by a double at nine and a triple-bogey seven at 13.

Stal, ranked 357 in the world at the start of the week, pounced with six birdies between holes 4 to 11 and held himself together down the stretch, picking up another shot at the 16th to capture his maiden title on the main tour thanks to a seven-under 65 for 19-under overall.

Martin Kaymer's 75 was the worst round of the whole field on Sunday © Getty Images

Kaymer shot 75 for 17-under and third place behind world No.1 Rory McIlroy, who has now finished in the top two in his last six European Tour events.

"I'm a little shocked and surprised," Kaymer said. "I don't know how to put it into words."

Kaymer, a two-time major winner, is renowned as one of the best front-runners in golf and had been in supreme form in his first tournament of the year with rounds of 64, 67 and 65. He hadn't made a bogey since the 12th hole on Thursday and McIlroy even said Kaymer was "playing his own tournament".

After birdies at the first, second and fourth, Kaymer's final round started to unravel when he made a bogey at six and then a double bogey at 10 after being forced to take a drop when his drive landed under a bush.

Kaymer lost the lead he had held since the first round when another drive wound up at the base of a bush at 13. A drop gave him a poor lie in the sandy wasteland and after chipping out into the fairway, he scuffed his approach shot 10 yards short of the green. He two-putted for a triple bogey and Stal was in front for the first time.

"When I saw the leaderboard on the fifth hole, I saw Martin Kaymer on 23-under par," said a stunned Stal. "I couldn't believe it when I saw he was [17-under] after 15 holes."

Stal, playing in the group in front of Kaymer, sank a 25-foot birdie putt on the 16th to move two shots ahead of Kaymer and McIlroy. Stal's approach to the 18th was tentative and landed in the rough to the right of the green, but he got up and down in two.

Kaymer, who won in Abu Dhabi in 2008, 2010 and 2011, needed to eagle the last for a play-off but he only managed a par.

"I can't believe this," said Stal, whose best previous finish in a European Tour event was fifth.

Abu Dhabi Championship leaderboard

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