MARTIN KAYMER

It’s four years since Martin Kaymer brought golf’s tough­est ma­jor to its knees with an eight-stroke wire-to-wire win at Pine­hurst. But de­spite two ma­jors, four Ry­der Cups and eight weeks as World No.1, the game hasn’t pro­vided the Ger­man true hap­pi­ness an

Golf World (UK) - - CONTENTS -

The dou­ble ma­jor win­ner faces his big­gest test: The John Hug­gan Interview.

At the age of 33, Martin Kaymer has achieved much in the world of golf. He is half­way to the ca­reer Grand Slam hav­ing won the US PGA and the US Open cham­pi­onships. He has tasted vic­tory in the Play­ers, the so-called “fifth ma­jor”. He has won a World Golf Cham­pi­onship. He has been num­ber-one in the world – for eight weeks back in 2011. He has four times rep­re­sented Europe in the Ry­der Cup and fa­mously holed the win­ning putt at Me­d­i­nah in 2012. He was rookie of the year on the Euro­pean Tour in 2007 and num­ber-one on Race to Dubai in 2010. That’s a lot of ticks in a lot of boxes. Yet when the Ger­man sat down to chat in Abu Dhabi ear­lier this year he was ranked some­where in the mid70s. Things have not gone too well lately. Amongst other things, we sat down to find out why.

JH Let’s start at the be­gin­ning. How did a wee boy from Dus­sel­dorf get into golf?

MK I started when I was 10. My fa­ther took my brother and me to a pub­lic range. He had been play­ing for three or four years. But my brother and me were more into soc­cer. And we had school. We had a lot go­ing on.

At the age of 15 I had to de­cide if I wanted to play soc­cer or golf. My par­ents told me I had to choose – my ac­tiv­i­ties were get­ting a lit­tle too much. I was earn­ing money play­ing soc­cer for For­tuna Dus­sel­dorf at the time, so it wasn’t an easy de­ci­sion. But I chose golf be­cause it is an in­di­vid­ual sport. It is all about your­self and if you play well you get all the credit. It is not about 10 other guys help­ing you. Of course, if you screw up, you have no one to blame but your­self.

JH You didn’t take long to make your mark as a pro. “Me­te­oric” is a pretty ac­cu­rate de­scrip­tion of your as­cent onto the Euro­pean Tour. In 2006 you were on the Ger­man-based Euro­pean Pro­fes­sional Devel­op­ment Tour – and less than 12-months later you were on the Euro­pean Tour. (For the record, in 14 EPD starts, the former Aus­trian am­a­teur cham­pion won six times and eight Chal­lenge Tour events brought one vic­tory and five other top-four fin­ishes).

MK I was so sur­prised. My orig­i­nal plan had been so dif­fer­ent. Af­ter the Q-school I thought I would have one year on the EPD Tour, then maybe a cou­ple more

on the Chal­lenge Tour be­fore get­ting to the Euro­pean Tour. That is the nor­mal way. But I did it all in one year. When I won my first Euro­pean Tour event, the 2008 Abu Dhabi Cham­pi­onship, I played the last round with Ian Poul­ter and Rory McIl­roy. It was amaz­ing. We all played great and it was fun. I tried so hard and it was spe­cial to win that and beat them.

JH How would you de­scribe your re­la­tion­ship with golf these days? And how has it changed over the years?

MK At the mo­ment we are get­ting on well. But I do feel I give the game more love than it gives me. I’ve put a lot of ef­fort into train­ing and prac­tice over the last six months. But the game makes you sac­ri­fice and suf­fer a bit un­til it gives back. I’ve had some big wins in my game though. So I know it is okay to go through that pe­riod.

But, all in all, the re­la­tion­ship I have with golf is very in­ter­est­ing. You have to en­joy and be happy with the suc­cess when it comes. And you need to take time out to re­alise what it all means. But there are al­ways more dif­fi­cult times than wins, in terms of re­sults. JH It’s hard to stay in the mo­ment, isn’t it? MK It is. But once you un­der­stand that, it’s okay. It’s a hard sport. It’s hard to win. And that is why you need to have even more re­spect for play­ers who do win. Look at Tiger and how many years he has been on top. When I was World No.1 it was only for eight weeks. It was nice to be there, but it would have been even nicer to keep that po­si­tion even longer. To be there is good, spe­cial. And great for the sum­mary at the end of your ca­reer. But I was there for only five min­utes.

All of which is why it is so im­por­tant to re­spect golf. If you do, it gives you some­thing back. Es­pe­cially at times when you don’t re­ally ex­pect it.

JH How would you de­fine that re­spect for the game?

MK Not be­ing ar­ro­gant about your­self. Don’t ever think you can play the game. If you win some events and play good golf, it is easy to ap­proach the sport in a cocky way. But it will get you if you do that. Which is strange. Where does that come from? I think it is a lack of fo­cus. Fo­cus and re­spect are very closely re­lated. One goes with the other. If you are not fo­cused you are less aware. And when you are less aware, the re­spect di­min­ishes too. Then the ar­ro­gance comes into play. Es­pe­cially if you have just had suc­cess. That is why I al­ways try to have re­spect for the sport.

Back when I was a kid I knew noth­ing about that re­spect. I just played the game. And I was good at it. I en­joyed the game more back then. I learned. I had ex­pe­ri­ences, good and bad. And in that way you learn.

On tour I find my­self fo­cus­ing too much on be­ing “per­fect”. There is noth­ing like that. I can hit shitty shots and still win the tour­na­ment. So you need to find a bal­ance be­tween prac­tis­ing hard and still hav­ing fun and enjoying the game. That’s very im­por­tant. But it is easy to for­get.

JH How much is your over­all hap­pi­ness dic­tated by how you are play­ing?

MK It has an im­pact on my life be­cause I care. But it is im­por­tant to ask the ques­tion: “Could I have a good and happy life with­out golf?” I think I could, even if it is my pas­sion. Yes, it would be hard to give up, but I could still be happy. I’m not the sort of player who, if I fin­ish with a dou­ble-bo­gey, takes it home with me for two or three days. In the even­ing I maybe re­flect on what hap­pened. But then I move on. It’s just a sport. It is not life and death. And it doesn’t bring full hap­pi­ness. In life, we need to find the places and peo­ple that do that for us.

When I am around kids, that is true hap­pi­ness. When I win a tour­na­ment I am happy. But it is dif­fer­ent. The same is true for love. Peo­ple love their par­ents and broth­ers and sis­ters in a dif­fer­ent way than they love their hus­bands and wives.

I do know some peo­ple who can­not live with­out golf. That’s bad. It is too much pres­sure. I will stop at some stage. And it would bother me if I did not know what to do af­ter that.

JH With Craig Con­nelly on your bag, how is your knowl­edge of Scot­tish foot­ball these days?

MK The first cou­ple of years I lis­tened. Now it’s just noise. I don’t want to lis­ten any more. It’s al­ways Celtic, the fans, the ri­valry with Rangers. It’s quite a bor­ing league to be hon­est. There’s not much hap­pen­ing. It is al­ways be­tween two clubs. And right now it is one. I am happy for him be­cause he’s ex­cited. But it gets to the point where I have to move on (laughs).

JH If I made you “king for a day”, what would you do to sort out golf?

MK For pro­fes­sional golf, I’d make the fair­ways tighter, rough thicker, cour­ses shorter and the clubs and balls go shorter. And more nor­mal. It is not nor­mal that Dustin John­son hits 400-yard drives. That is not the way I grew up play­ing. But on the cour­ses we play these days, it is pos­si­ble. There is not much rough and the fair­ways are wide. I would make the game more in­ter­est­ing for the ball-strik­ers.

JH Would you like to see the ball spin and move sideways more?

MK That would give us more va­ri­ety. If you watch guys on the range they are all do­ing the same thing. They are try­ing to hit up on their drives to get more yardage, ball speed and club­head speed. All those things. But the feel, the touch, the in­di­vid­ual class is miss­ing. So to get that back I would change the cour­ses and make them more dif­fi­cult to play.

JH Would you need more rough if the cour­ses were shorter? If the ball was shorter too.

MK Yes. That would ben­e­fit the ball­strik­ers. It’s a tough sport with fine mar­gins of er­ror. Or it should be. It shouldn’t be just about hit­ting the ball far.

JH Gen­er­ally, I don’t find it as in­ter­est­ing as I used to. I am an old fuddy-duddy, but I don’t see shots get­ting shaped like they used to be. It’s not that you guys can’t do that; it is that you don’t have to. Or that the equip­ment doesn’t let you.

MK We don’t have to shape shots, that is true. We don’t learn it any more. So I’m not sure most play­ers can. And yes, where we are head­ing makes the game less in­ter­est­ing. Which is why I would like to see the ball-strik­ers get­ting more re­ward.

JH Let’s talk about the Ry­der Cup. It will be harder for you to make the next team, given where you are in the worl­drank­ings. Is that some­thing you worry about? Is it a big deal for you?

MK The Ry­der Cup is my num­ber-one goal this year, for sure. Not so much the ma­jors or win­ning tour­na­ments. But to get there I need to play well all year long. My sched­ule this year is in­tense, the most in­tense of my ca­reer. To play on both tours, I need to qual­ify for cer­tain events. So it is go­ing to be a bit dif­fer­ent from the last few years. All be­cause my num­ber-one pri­or­ity is the Ry­der Cup.

It is nice to play in it al­ways, but es­pe­cially in Europe. At home you get so much more out of it, so much more mo­ti­va­tion. It is so in­spir­ing, a huge boost. To play for Thomas (Bjorn) would be a great hon­our. He is a friend of mine. I have played with him in a Ry­der Cup, at

‘I WOULD MAKE FAIR­WAYS TIGHTER, ROUGH THICKER, COUR­SES SHORTER AND THE CLUBS AND BALLS GO SHORTER.’

Gle­nea­gles. And he is a nice man. So I would like to be part of it. But I am OK if I don’t make it. If I’m not good enough then some­one else will have played bet­ter. Which will make the team stronger.

JH You have al­ready had the ul­ti­mate feel­ing in a Ry­der Cup of course. Hol­ing the win­ning putt.

MK And I can never have that again. I can­not think about a big­ger drama re­ally. It was the ul­ti­mate sat­is­fac­tion and gift so far in my ca­reer.

JH Do you ever think about what it would have been like to miss it?

MK Of course. But it is ir­rel­e­vant. I’ve talked to psy­chol­o­gists about this. Most say you can think about it, but you can never know how plan B would have worked out. But it’s also nor­mal and hu­man and okay to think about it. In­ter­est­ing too.

When I think about it a bit more deeply I get ner­vous. And I get peo­ple want­ing to talk about it a lot. They wouldn’t do that if I had missed. And I def­i­nitely get recog­nised more for that putt than for any­thing else I’ve done in golf. Es­pe­cially in Europe. And Bri­tain for sure.

So the mean­ing of that mo­ment – while I could never know it while I stood there – has been huge for me. Even now, I hear about it ev­ery week. And I hope it will stick with me for the rest of my ca­reer. I was one of the big­gest parts in the “Mir­a­cle at Me­d­i­nah”. And any­one who watches film of those matches will see me mak­ing the putt. It’s like Paul McGin­ley hol­ing the win­ning putt in 2002, or Paul Casey mak­ing a hole-in-one. Those things are so spe­cial. I’m very glad that I had the op­por­tu­nity and that it went well. I was pre­pared for the sit­u­a­tion. But you never know un­til you get there. JH When did you know the putt was in? MK It was about seven-feet long and with about two-feet to go I knew it was in. I read it well and it started well. But you never know. I was so aware of what was hap­pen­ing. Some peo­ple get too wrapped up in the sit­u­a­tion that they ac­tu­ally miss out on the mo­ment. But I knew ex­actly what was hap­pen­ing. I felt ev­ery body part. It was crazy, a beautiful mo­ment that will be with me for­ever. Which is why you can­not com­pare it to any ma­jor I have won.

JH You didn’t beat your­self up about the first putt. You knocked it well past when two putts was al­ways go­ing to be enough.

MK No. I talked with Jose Maria Olaz­a­bal about this at Valder­rama last year. I told him that my at­ti­tude on the first putt was dic­tated by play­ing match­play for three days. It is all about hol­ing putts. So I wanted to hole the first one too. That sounds crazy. But it was a nat­u­ral way of think­ing. I’d done that all of the week.

If I had changed and just tried to get it close, I would have hit a shit putt. Some­thing would have gone wrong. I might have de­cel­er­ated into im­pact. What­ever. So I just con­tin­ued with the nor­mal process. Yes, I was seven-feet past, but if I’d hit that first putt on the sec­ond or third hole no one would have cared.

Ac­tu­ally, stand­ing over the first putt, I knew I had read it wrong. I needed to ad­just. But I didn’t. I should have al­lowed more break. But I didn’t. Which is why I hit it harder. All of which hap­pened in less than a sec­ond. But my at­ti­tude was very pos­i­tive. That was im­por­tant.

JH Tell me about later that even­ing, what you can re­mem­ber of it. I have it on good au­thor­ity that you and Ni­co­las Col­saerts were the last men stand­ing.

MK (Laughs) It was a tricky one. I was so, so tired. Un­be­liev­able. But I wanted to en­joy the suc­cess and party with guys I play against ev­ery week. I wanted to cel­e­brate to­gether. This is a selfish sport we play. But then we achieve some­thing so big and so im­por­tant. I had to stay up.

JH The press conference af­ter­wards was hi­lar­i­ous. Most of you were drunk. And Graeme McDow­ell fell asleep. MK (Laughs) That’s okay. JH Of course. MK I re­mem­ber fly­ing out to the Dun­hill Links early the next day, where I couldn’t have cared less. But it was so im­por­tant to take out that time to en­joy the mo­ment and not care about play­ing the next week. I wanted to take it in. I was only ever go­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence it once. I can never have a big­ger Ry­der Cup than that one. JH Did you ac­tu­ally get to your bed? MK Yes. I know I was in bed. I’m not sure I was alone though (laughs).

JH We won’t go into that. Let’s move on. Have you made much of a dif­fer­ence to golf par­tic­i­pa­tion lev­els in Ger­many?

MK No. At the be­gin­ning of my ca­reer that was a bit sad for me. But the last two years, I have ac­cepted it. I want to help, but the peo­ple don’t seem to want to be helped. So what can I do?

JH A few years ago I was on hol­i­day in Ber­lin. You were World No.1. I took ev­ery chance to ask peo­ple I met if they had heard of you. Not one had.

MK That is de­press­ing. But only if you care. It is nice to be recog­nised and get a lit­tle bit from the peo­ple. But it is okay. I en­joy play­ing golf a lot and don’t mind if peo­ple notice or not. But it is a shame when golf is such a nice sport. It would be a great ed­u­ca­tion for a lot of Ger­man peo­ple. I would love for more of them to pick up clubs. But it is too com­pli­cated in my coun­try. We have too many rules. Which is great for many things in our cul­ture – and is why we are such a sta­ble coun­try. Many other na­tions look up to us. And I am very proud to be a Ger­man. But for golf we need to stretch the rules once in a while and here or there in or­der to get more peo­ple try­ing golf. But we Ger­mans are very stub­born.

Which is not to say I don’t get a bit more at­ten­tion than in the past. Which is good. I like all of that. Golf is a great sport and if it grows in Ger­many it can be very help­ful for our pop­u­la­tion. Soc­cer is num­ber one, but golf is grow­ing, al­beit slowly. If we can make it more pop­u­lar that would be nice.

I know I have a re­spon­si­bil­ity in that area. Ev­ery­one says I am the next guy af­ter (Bern­hard) Langer. Which is nice. I’d love to in­spire young Ger­mans in the way I was in­spired by Ernie Els and Seve.

JH Let’s talk about your ma­jor wins – and your vic­tory in the Play­ers. If you stopped to­mor­row, what would be the high­light?

MK I would say the Play­ers. Yes, the sta­tus of the tour­na­ment is less than a ma­jor. But it means more some­how. When I won the PGA in 2010, for ex­am­ple, my main goal was to make the Ry­der Cup team. Then all of a sud­den I was in a play-off to win a ma­jor. And when I did win it was a bit over­whelm­ing. So I can’t re­ally know what that meant. It was nice though.

Be­fore I ac­tu­ally hit the win­ning tap-in I knew I had won. It would have been very dif­fi­cult to miss that putt! I was say­ing to my­self that I should en­joy that mo­ment. It is eas­ily the nicest mo­ment I have ever had on a golf course, so far at least. As I picked the ball out of the hole my mind was blank to be hon­est. At such mo­ments it is hard to think of any­thing.

It is very hard even now to de­scribe how I was feel­ing. I just let my­self go. It all hap­pens with­out think­ing, just as it did

‘THE 2012 RY­DER CUP CEL­E­BRA­TIONS WERE PRETTY WILD. I RE­MEM­BER GO­ING TO BED. I’M NOT SURE I WAS ALONE THOUGH’

when I made that putt on the 72nd hole to get into the play-off. You never know how you are go­ing to re­act un­til you ac­tu­ally do it. The enor­mity of the mo­ment kind of takes over. JH And the US Open? MK That was a dif­fi­cult week­end for me. I was so far ahead. So to con­tinue play­ing that well was a chal­lenge. It was dif­fi­cult to keep go­ing. The Play­ers was more of a roller­coaster. Oh my good­ness. There was a break for weather on the Sun­day. And I made a mis­take. For me, the day was over. I took off my shoes. There was no light any more. Then they sent us back out. Men­tally, that was so hard. I dou­ble­bo­geyed my first hole.

I thought I hit good shots on all of the last three holes though. The 17th is very hard to ex­plain [Kaymer nar­rowly avoided the wa­ter, then made par when a bo­gey seemed in­evitable]. I paid no at­ten­tion to the con­di­tions and got too much spin on my shot to the green. It was such a roller­coaster of emotions. I was done. Then I wasn’t. Then I was out of con­tention when I looked like I was in the wa­ter on 17. Then I was back in when I holed a one-in-100 putt.

The 18th I played in dark­ness. They asked me if I wanted to play on or come back in the morn­ing. I wasn’t go­ing to sleep on that tee-shot then come back out when the ball doesn’t fly. So I played on. I couldn’t see the ball fly­ing on the tee-shot. And when I stood over my 8-iron to the green I couldn’t re­ally see the grass. I had to feel when the club was on the ground. And the putting was even harder.

JH So is the Play­ers above all the oth­ers be­cause you were asked so many dif­fer­ent ques­tions?

MK Yes. That is a fair point. I had to deal with more. At the US Open it was clear what I needed to do – just keep go­ing. But the Play­ers was so hard. I re­mem­ber walk­ing dur­ing a prac­tice round there with Paul McGin­ley. We had a chat about the Ry­der Cup. Then he was the only guy who was wait­ing for me on Sun­day even­ing. We went for din­ner and a beer. Just him and me. It was very nice and some­thing I will al­ways re­mem­ber. The Play­ers is def­i­nitely my tough­est win.

JH Your re­la­tion­ship with Au­gusta is in­ter­est­ing. And your record there is very poor. How much did you try to change your shot-shape for that course?

MK I like to think I learn from my mis­takes. At my first Mas­ters I had to fin­ish with four pars to make the cut. But I got too greedy. I went for the green on 15, the par-5, and missed in the wrong spot. I even­tu­ally made dou­ble-bo­gey and missed the cut by one even though I birdied the last. I was so dis­ap­pointed. I was try­ing so hard to make the cut. But I lacked the ex­pe­ri­ence to do so.

For the first few years I had way too much re­spect for the course. It dis­tracted my nat­u­ral play. You can say what you like about Au­gusta and how Jack Nick­laus won there so many times play­ing a fade, it was a dif­fer­ent course back then. Cer­tain holes you can­not play with a fade. To say oth­er­wise is bull­shit. I don’t be­lieve it. JH For ex­am­ple? MK The 10th is im­pos­si­ble to play with a fade. I did in the past be­cause I couldn’t draw the ball. So I was hit­ting 3-irons to the green. Af­ter four years there, I was av­er­ag­ing 5.8 for the hole. So it was a dou­ble-bo­gey. And the 13th hole I never got home in two. And the 14th I was al­ways down on the right side, un­able to see the green. The 7th was hard for me. I had to start the ball left to keep it on the fair­way. But I couldn’t be­cause of the big trees. The 2nd was the same. I was play­ing in the right bunker. Or I laid up short and couldn’t get home in two. That’s a lot of shots to give up. It’s a hard course any­way. But it was a lot harder for me.

I was World No.1 when I went there in 2011. I missed the cut. I sat down and vowed to come back ev­ery year. But I knew I had to be able to hit a draw. I didn’t have to play with it ev­ery week. But I had to be able to at Au­gusta. I had to be­come a more com­plete player.

I talked to my coach. He thought the same thing. We didn’t change the swing. Change is play­ing left-handed the next day. I ad­justed and added a few things to my swing. Now, I can play my way round. I know some think I made a mis­take. But it is never a mis­take to try to im­prove. I just wanted to be a more com­plete player. I didn’t feel like num­ber-one if I couldn’t play a course the way it is sup­posed to be played. How could I be the best player know­ing that was true?

JH I know you are a mem­ber of the PGA Tour again. But you had a wee gap there. De­scribe your re­la­tion­ship with them.

MK I like to be a mem­ber. It’s the strong­est tour in the world. And it’s best in terms of money and rank­ing points. If you want to com­pete against the best, that’s where you go. Now I have a place in Florida, so trav­el­ling is a lot eas­ier. As is liv­ing in Amer­ica. My English was not good when I first ar­rived. My first time in Amer­ica I went to Pizza Hut. I couldn’t fin­ish; it was so big. The girl asked me if I wanted a box. I was con­fused. I asked her why I would need a box. She told me I could take my food home and eat it later. I had no idea. We don’t do that in Ger­many.

Any­way, back when I was sus­pended from the tour for a year, I couldn’t have cared less. It was fine. We have so many great events in Europe, it was okay. But they han­dled it a bit strangely. I saw through so­cial me­dia I was sus­pended. I didn’t even know. But they have their rules. I didn’t play the re­quired num­ber of events. So I was out for a year. No prob­lem.

JH What Ger­man stereo­types do you live up – or down – to?

MK I’m stub­born and punc­tual. I can be fairly stiff in some sit­u­a­tions. I have a clear way of think­ing about stuff. Some­times too much. Some­times I need to ask if it’s nec­es­sary to get up at 6am when I have two weeks off to prac­tise. It’s okay to sleep in. I need to learn that. I like to feel like I’ve worked a bit harder than other play­ers. But long-term you can­not sus­tain that.

The dis­ci­pline and punc­tual thing and the qual­ity of work – I like them but they need to be healthy. Some­times I get too much. But that’s why I am who I am. JH What’s left for you in golf? MK You are the first per­son I have said this to. If I win two more ma­jors, the Mas­ters and the Open, I’m done. But then peo­ple will say I need to win the Olympic gold medal or the Fed-Ex Cup (laughs).

Let’s go crazy though. Let’s say I win the Open this year and the next Mas­ters. I’d play one more year but I wouldn’t do all the prac­tice. I wouldn’t do all the suf­fer­ing. In or­der to have suc­cess, you have to suf­fer. You have to give up cer­tain things. That’s why suc­cess is so spe­cial. But I would strug­gle for mo­ti­va­tion. I’d still play as the golf course makes me happy. But would I work hard to make an­other Ry­der Cup or im­prove? No. JH What would you do then? MK I have my plans. But I don’t want to go too deep into those. I will lose fo­cus on what I want to do now. I’m okay with­out golf. But let’s talk again af­ter I win the Mas­ters and the Open.

‘YOU ARE THE FIRST PER­SON I HAVE SAID THIS TO. IF I WIN TWO MORE MA­JORS, THE MAS­TERS AND THE OPEN, I’M DONE.’

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