A day that challenged everything we thought we knew about golf
very time you think you’ve gotten to know this mysterious game well enough to make a basic assumption, it jumps up and reminds you that really, you know nothing at all. As such, Martin Kaymer’s failure to convert a 10-shot lead with 14 holes to play in Abu Dhabi last month was easily the most improbable and bizarre stretch of golf I’ve ever watched.
I’m sure I am not alone in confessing that had I been the Falcon Trophy’s engraver, the name ‘G. Stal’ would look suspiciously like it had started with an ‘M’ and ended with an ‘R’, and I would currently be on the lookout for alternative employment. I was still in denial even as Kaymer was making that tortuous treble-bogey on 13. me that he had learned not to be afraid of winning. His method for dealing with the pressures of having the lead was simple. Forget about the chasing pack and play only against yourself. At Pinehurst that meant, ‘ how low can I go in a U.S. Open?’. The answer was lower than any of us had thought possible on that layout.
“In order to win a golf tournament, you need to remain extremely focused on every shot,” he had said. At some point during his final round in Abu Dhabi, Martin Kaymer and this unerring mentality that has served him so well en route to two majors and numerous other big trophies, went their separate ways. This is a guy who holed a sixfoot putt under unbearable pressure to seal the Miracle at Medinah, even though he was low on confidence and form. He handled all that Pinehurst could throw at him with ice flowing through his veins.
But on one of his favourite courses, where he is the most decorated of three- time winners, Kaymer’s nerve betrayed him. It’s not enough to attribute this loss to two poor tee shots and the round of Gary Stal’s life. Kaymer made 25 birdies in his first 58 holes, and none in his final 14.
As stunned by what happened as I remain, I back Kaymer to find a way to profit from this ordeal in the long run. He is a thoughtful, meticulous player who will come to terms with it and then use it to become a better player. And I will never make an assumption in golf again.