Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell spent most of the 2010 season making golfing history and, fittingly, they ended the year in a similar vein when, for the first time since the award was initiated in 1985, they were voted as joint winners of The Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Year.
A respected judging panel featuring all sectors of the golfing media – newspapers, magazines, radio and television – debated the many merits of both men but when it came to the vote the result was split right down the middle, leading to the historic decision.
It was an appropriate conclusion to a groundbreaking season for European Tour Members in tournaments across the globe; a year which saw three – Louis Oosthuizen, Kaymer and McDowell – win Major Championships for the first time; a further trio – Ernie Els, Francesco Molinari and Ian Poulter – lift World Golf Championships; and the 2009 Golfer of the Year Lee Westwood displace Tiger Woods as World Number One before ensuring he would begin 2011 in that position following his success in the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
On The European Tour International Schedule, Miguel Angel Jiménez became, at the age of 46 years and 243 days, the oldest player to win three times in one season while at a mere 17 years and 188 days, Matteo Manassero became the youngest Tour winner in history.
Furthermore Bernhard Langer, the winner of the inaugural Golfer of the Year award in 1985, claimed two Senior Major titles in consecutive weeks on his way to winning the US Champions Tour Player of the Year and Money List for the third consecutive season, while on the regular US PGA Tour, European Tour Members dominated the mid-season with seven victories in 11 weeks.
All of the above players were commended by the panel for their achievements but, in terms of the Golfer of the Year, it was the respective feats of Kaymer and McDowell which stood out.
Kaymer, 25, won four times on The European Tour International Schedule, capturing the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship at the start of the season and three tournaments in a row during a sensational autumn spell, a run which began with his first Major Championship victory when he came from behind in a three-hole play-off at Whistling Straits to beat American Bubba Watson to the US PGA Championship title.
He then 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. It was a run which provided the platform for him to also finish Number One on The Race to Dubai with record season earnings of €4,461,011.
In the midst of his triumphant autumn, he also made his Ryder Cup debut at The Celtic Manor Resort in Wales, returning two and a half points from his four matches including a vital fourball victory in the first match of the entire contest, in partnership with Lee Westwood, against Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson.
Kaymer 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. I followed in his footsteps earlier this season by winning a Major Championship, playing in a winning Ryder Cup Team and being given Honorary Membership of The European Tour and now I have taken another step by winning the Golfer of the Year Award. But he is still many steps ahead of me!
“Graeme and I had pretty much the same level of success this season in terms of the Majors and on The European Tour and he deserves this recognition as much as I do. His winning match in The Ryder Cup was huge for all of Europe and for both of us to now make history in terms of sharing this award for the first time, represents a very proud moment for both our families and also shows how strong European golf is right now.”
McDowell, 31, won three times on The European Tour International Schedule, beginning with victory in The Celtic Manor Wales Open in June on The Twenty Ten Course where he would play such a pivotal role in Europe’s Ryder Cup triumph a mere four months later.
Like Kaymer, he then went on to pick up his first Major Championship victory in the United States, an emotional success in the US Open Championship 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 US Open 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, a win which helped reignite The Race to Dubai and he chased Kaymer all the way to the final event – the Dubai World Championship presented by DP World on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates – eventually having to settle for a career high of second place with season earnings of €3,896,995.
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 ½ - 13 ½. Like Kaymer, he too contributed two and a half points overall to the European cause.
McDowell, who climbed to a career-high seventh on the Official World Golf Ranking following his victory in the Chevron World Challenge, said: “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.
“We have both enjoyed superb seasons, winning our first Major Championships and numerous other tournaments across the world. However, to be jointly voted European Tour Golfer of the Year by the members of the media makes me very proud. I would like to thank everyone involved with The European Tour and the wider golf media for their hard work in promoting our sport around the world.
“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 at Celtic Manor. 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.”
Iain Carter, Golf Correspondent of BBC Radio Five Live and a member of the judging panel, explained the reason why the historic verdict to give the award jointly had been taken. “Like Colin Montgomerie when he was faced with the decision of who to select for his wild cards for The Ryder Cup, I think the panel faced the most difficult judgement call in the history of this award,” he said.
“It is an extraordinary move I know but one which we felt reflected an extraordinarily successful year for The European Tour and one which also properly honoured two men who are not only exceptional golfers, but who are also exceptional people and who both promoted European golf superbly in 2010.
“Both won their first Major Championships in 2010 and were part of a winning European Ryder Cup Team and, wherever you looked during the season they always seemed to be together at the head of affairs. Even their statistics show that while Martin narrowly shaded the Stroke Average Category by 70.04 to 70.07, in the Putts per Greens in Regulation Category, Graeme had the edge by 1.755 to 1.756.
“These margins are too close to differentiate one of these great golfers from another and it was fitting to see that they ended their season tied together in 13th place in the Dubai World Championship. They were side by side in the desert and the panel could not separate them so therefore they will stand side by side in the history books as winners of this prestigious award.”