Perfectionist Martin Kaymer reaps his just reward

Commanding victory at the US Open fully vindicates the German’s decision to rebuild his golf swing in recent years

Martin Kaymer of Germany celebrates with the trophy  after winning the US Open Championship at Pinehurst, North Carolina. Photo: Andrew Reddington/Getty

Martin Kaymer of Germany celebrates with the trophy after winning the US Open Championship at Pinehurst, North Carolina. Photo: Andrew Reddington/Getty

Tue, Jun 17, 2014, 01:00

The show moves on, which is the way of the world in professional golf. Another week, another tour stop. Yet, as many players departed North Carolina – some, like Graeme McDowell and 19 others from the US Open, headed across the Atlantic for this week’s Irish Open; others, others like Adam Scott taking a relatively long break before resuming competitive golf at next month’s British Open – there was no questioning the impact of Martin Kaymer’s second career Major victory.

Kaymer’s rebirth as an elite player has been confirmed. In assessing which players were most likely to fill whatever void had been left by the absence of Tiger Woods, the names of those would-be kings included Scott, McIlroy and, perhaps, young Jordan Spieth. Hardly a mention of a Kaiser, by the name of Martin. Now, we’ve been reminded.

Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley will be pleased. In adding the US Open to The Players Championship he won last month, Kaymer – who made the winning putt at Medinah – has skyrocketed up the world points table, his place all but assured with over three months of qualifying to go.

“I was delighted with Martin’s win. I texted him immediately after the final round finished with my own congratulations and he texted me straight back . . . I’ve been consistent with my message to the players over the past few months and it remains the same now: namely, go out and play your best and challenge for major honours. If you do that, the Ryder Cup will come to you, you don’t have to go chasing it,” said McGinley.

Very good

As Keegan Bradley put it of what Kaymer brings to the table at Ryder Cups: “he’s a guy that is really tough. If you get him in a Ryder Cup match or coming down the end of a tournament, he’s probably a guy you would rather not face. He’s tough and he’s very, very good obviously.”

Kaymer’s conviction in rebuilding his swing after winning his breakthrough Major at the US PGA in 2010 and moving into the world number one spot for nine weeks early in 2011 surprised observers but, now, has been totally vindicated.

Under his coach Gunter Kessler, Kaymer reconstructed his swing so that he would be able to shape the ball both ways. He felt the fade which had served him up to that point wasn’t complete enough, not if he wanted to win other Majors and, particularly, with an eye on Augusta National where his record at the Masters had been so poor. He missed four straight cuts there, from 2008 to 2011.

That the process of rebuilding the swing took years rather than weeks or months provided an insight in to Kaymer’s psyche, a stubborn commitment to see the job through. He grew sick of hearing questions about why, why, why? As he put in on Sunday night, “Why do you change if you win a Major, you become number one in the world? And it’s annoying. You don’t want to talk about that all the time. You want to focus on the main thing.”

Kaymer’s world ranking fell from number one in early 2011 to fourth by year’s end and down to 28th by the end of 2012. At the end of last year, Kaymer was down to 39th and starting to freefall. By March, he had fallen to 63rd. Now, on the back of his Players and US Open wins, he has jumped back up to 11th.

The wire-to-wire win in The Players hadn’t fully confirmed Kaymer’s renaissance. This win has. In acknowledging he had come in “under the radar” to Pinehurst, Kaymer was simply happy that he had allowed his clubs to do the talking.

“At one stage after my adjustments, I talked way, way too much about it. I was really looking forward to competing against the top players and to see who has the stronger and better nerves coming down the last five, six holes in big tournaments,” he said.

This time around, compared to his win in the USPGA at Whistling Straits, Kaymer is better prepared to handle the pressures. “Four years ago, I didn’t know what was happening. I was surprised. I was not expecting myself to win a Major at 25. I was surprised about my performance. I was surprised about a lot of things. I couldn’t handle a lot of things that happened . . .

Something special

“And then becoming number one in the world, that added another thing. It was too much. It was just, you know, to be completely honest, it was very difficult to handle everything and to play good golf. So right now I am okay with talking to you in a very calm, normal, relaxed way, as if we were having a normal conversation. In the past, I always think I have to say something special and something that might be interesting. Now I just talk and it’s a lot easier.”

Kaymer’s eight-stroke winning margin over Erik Compton and Rickie Fowler made him a multiple Major champion in his 20s, something he now has in common with Woods and McIlroy. And the manner of the win emphasised how his swing changes had moved him up another level. In his seventh appearance in a US Open, it was the first time he’d managed to break par for 72 holes.

It was some show.

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