Written by
Mark Lamport-Stokes, LIV Golf Correspondent
Mar 11 2024
- 4 MIN
Kaymer HK recap

HONG KONG – Boosted by captain Martin Kaymer's opening 6-under 64, the all-European Cleeks celebrated their best team finish of the season after securing fifth spot at LIV Golf Hong Kong on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

German Kaymer, whose 2023 LIV Golf campaign was negatively impacted by pre-season wrist surgery, posted scores of 72 and 67 over the weekend on Hong Kong Golf Club's Fanling Course to end up in a share of 21st spot at 7-under.

Englishman Richard Bland was the most successful Cleeks player, closing with a 66 to tie for eighth at 10-under, while Poland's Adrian Meronk, who signed off with a 69, was a further stroke back in joint 15th place. Bringing up the rear was Finland's Kalle Samooja, who carded rounds of 69, 68 and 71 to end up 41st at 2-under.

Collectively, it was the team's best performance of the year after they had finished eighth at the season-opening LIV Golf Mayakoba in Mexico, would up ninth at LIV Golf Las Vegas and then slipped to 11th spot out of 13 at last week's LIV Golf Jeddah.

Heading into Hong Kong, Cleeks GC had great expectations given that Fanling is the shortest course ever to host a LIV Golf event and is also a layout that requires careful strategic thinking - especially with approach shots.

Kaymer, Meronk, Bland and Samooja had flourished as a team from tee to green in the first three events this season, ranking fourth in fairways hit and seventh for greens in regulation. The challenge presented by Fanling was right in their wheelhouse and so it proved on day one as Kaymer carded a 64, Bland a 66 and Meronk a 68 to earn the Cleeks a share of third place going into round two.

"I had a very good start," Kaymer said about his opening round. "I started on fairly tricky holes, No. 8 and No. 9 ... and I hit it on both to two feet, so it was fairly easy birdies to start with.

"Then I made two or three fairly long putts, and that really kept the round going. It was an opportunity to shoot a fairly low score, and 6-under is a great score on the golf course."

Former world number one Kaymer was especially happy to shoot the lowest score of his 60 career regular-season rounds on LIV Golf, with his health issues of the last few years now largely behind him.

"This winter was the first winter for I would say the last four years that I was pain-free," he said. "It was a winter I could really work on my game again. I could really practice in Spain. It was nice knowing you come to the first event and you are prepared enough to play well.

"It doesn't mean that you will play well, but at least you put everything that you had the last three months you put into your practice, and I was able to do that.

"Fortunately, I don't need to take any painkillers anymore. I think it's more just like a mental thing that I feel like I protect it a little more. It's very disappointing that you play against some of the best players in the world, and just being okay is not enough. I finished quite often on the bottom of the leaderboard, and that was mentally quite difficult to go through that, that you can't put in the hours of practice that I needed to play well. This winter I finally could."

Although Kaymer failed to replicate his sizzling form from day one in round two as he carded a 2-over 72, he bounced back with a 67 on Sunday to keep the Cleeks in contention for team glory in Hong Kong.

Meronk, with a 64, and Bland and Samooja, who each returned 68s, kept the all-European combination in third place after day two and they moved into the lead for an extended time early in Sunday's final round before finally slipping back into fifth spot.

All in all, a very encouraging week for the Cleeks in Hong Kong and they will now aim to improve on that as they prepare for the next LIV Golf event - the April 5-7 LIV Golf Miami at Trump National Doral.