Kaymer refreshed by home comforts

Leading from the front: Martin Kaymer works towards a five-shot lead after 54 holes of the 2014 U.S. Open
Leading from the front: Martin Kaymer works towards a five-shot lead after 54 holes of the 2014 U.S. Open

Sometimes, when things are not going your way, the only thing for it is gardening. Millions of people around the world find solace in gardening, and Martin Kaymer is among them.

The reigning U.S. Open champion suffered another torrid trip to the Masters in April. Kaymer geared his early-season schedule around what he hoped would be ideal preparation for the first major of the year, and for a tournament in which the former world number one is yet to shine.

He has won two major titles, yet Kaymer has never finished inside the top-30 of the Masters. Scores of 76-75 this time scratched the German golfer’s weekend plans and left an exhausted, deflated golfer with one destination in mind: home.

martin-kaymer-us-open“I thought I would be ready, but I practiced too much, too hard, too long,” a demoralized Kaymer told Majors at Augusta. “I wanted it too much, and sometimes you can be your own worst enemy. To be honest, I am so tired of golf right now. It has been too much. I just need rest and I don’t know if I will even play golf over the next two weeks.”

And he didn’t. Kaymer, 30, landed in Dusseldorf, Germany on the Monday morning and picking up a golf club was furthest from his mind.

“I did not play golf for about 12 days,” Kaymer says. “I helped my grandma in her back yard, mowing the lawn and trimming the hedges. It was lovely, with the smell of freshly cut grass. We also trimmed back some of her trees in time for spring. She lives just five minutes away, and every time I am home she calls me and says, ‘Well, as you are at home, you’d may as well come and help.’ Sometimes that is just what you need.

“When I landed in Germany on the Monday I could feel it was where I wanted to be. Even though I was tired I gained a lot of energy from being home again. It was so nice to know I did not have to practice for the next week. I spent some time with my cousin’s kids, saw some friends and went to the cinema. It was brilliant, very refreshing.”

Tiger Woods talked about working from “sun up to sun down” in preparation for the 2015 Masters, and he was not the only one. But there is a fine line between training, practicing and playing to find peak form, and overdoing it. It is about finding the optimum, not the maximum, but that optimum can be elusive.

“I have always been one of those people who would rather do a little bit more, than do a little bit less,” reflects Kaymer. “The truth is that it is not always necessary to do more work. When you are playing well you feel you need to keep up the work to keep the form going, but if you don’t play well there can be the inclination to practice even harder to get the good form back. It can be a vicious circle and hard to get out of, and I have been in that circle for the past four of five months. There comes a point where you just can’t push any more.”

Kaymer’s Masters malaise could not be further from the comfort he found 12 months ago, in storming to victory in the Players Championship, before heading to Pinehurst, amid the sandhills of North Carolina, where he set a U.S. Open scoring record for 36 holes with scores of 65-65 in the first two rounds. Like at the Players, he completed a stunning wire-to-wire triumph, this time by a winning margin that was hard to fathom: eight shots. The U.S. Open is simply not designed for that kind of scoring.

“I knew I was playing well at Pinehurst,” admits Kaymer, “but I did not expect to lead the U.S. Open by six shots after two rounds. It would have seemed too far-fetched beforehand.

“I putted really well at Pinehurst. Within 10 to 15 feet I did not miss many putts and that was really the key. I hit a lot of greens too, but overall those putts kept my momentum going. My putting saved a lot of pars, I holed the odd birdie chance and the result was a good score.”

Sounds a bit like Jordan Spieth at the Masters doesn’t it? Spieth also shot 130 for the first 36 holes – 64, 66 – to set a new Masters record for rounds one and two scoring.

“It was similar because Jordan did not hold back,” reflects Kaymer. “He got into the lead and kept going, and he did not play defensive golf. Even with a big lead he kept going for the par-five greens in two, and then his putting was brilliant.”

Washington defence

Kaymer will not set foot on 2015 U.S. Open venue Chambers Bay in Washington state for the first time until the weekend prior to the tournament in June, but the coverage he has seen of the new major venue reminds him of Whistling Straits, the Wisconsin course that will receive its third PGA Championship in August. Kaymer won the last PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in 2010 – outlasting Bubba Watson in a playoff – so the remaining American major venues for 2015 are setting up well in his mind’s eye. Not to mention the Old Course at St Andrews, another course on which he has triumphed and the one he singles out as his favourite course worldwide.

Martin Kaymer St Andrews

Happy memories: Martin Kaymer wins the 2010 Alfred Dunhill Championship on the Old Course, St Andrews

“I love going to St Andrews,” he says of the Scottish town that will host July’s Open Championship. “There is a special atmosphere in the town. It is such a pure and natural place to be, and there is so much genuine respect for golf, and the golf course still has that feeling of being untouched.

“The Old Course can play in so many different ways so you have to be creative around there. I love standing on that first tee and hitting a two-iron down the first fairway, and I love how the 18th brings you back into the town. It is just brilliant, with the sea in the background, and I love going running on that beach.

“You know, I could become an ambassador for St Andrews!”

Martin Kaymer

Born: December 28, 1984
Turned pro: 2005
Professional wins: 15
Best finish in each major:
Masters T31 (2014),
U.S. Open 1st (2014),
Open T7 (2010),
PGA Championship 1st (2010)

Kaymer’s best Open result to date was at St Andrews in 2010, finishing tied for seventh, but having claimed the PGA Championship three weeks later, the 25-year-old Kaymer was unstoppable. He won the European Tour’s KLM Open in the Netherlands, made his Ryder Cup debut in a victorious European Ryder Cup team at Celtic Manor, and then returned to St Andrews for October’s Dunhill Links Championship and claimed his fourth win of the year, and his third title in as many appearances. Four months later he was world number one.

“I know I can do well at St Andrews,” says Kaymer, who is ranked 17th in the world at the time of writing. “It is a matter of letting things fall into place in the Open.

The Open has always been the tournament I want to win the most, and it will be played on my favourite golf course. Hopefully I will give myself a chance on the Sunday.”

If the gardening leave has had its desired affect, Kaymer could still have a lot to look forward to this year.

Martin KaymerThe OpenU.S. OPEN