Kaymer ready to play it cool in Chicago
Expectations can often weigh heavy in The Ryder Cup but after a two year journey since his Ryder Cup debut that peaked with him reaching the World Number One spot, Martin Kaymer believes he is now better equipped to handle the global spotlight second time round.
Kaymer was a reigning Major Champion and in the form of his life when he helped Europe defeat the United States in 2010, but he insists the pressure on the first tee at The Celtic Manor Resort was unlike anything he had previously experienced.
Having won the US PGA Championship and the KLM Open in his two appearances prior to The 2010 Ryder Cup, Kaymer was thrust straight into the unforgiving Ryder Cup cauldron alongside the more experienced Lee Westwood in the opening Fourballs match against Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, which the European pair went on to win 3&2.
Despite losing in the Singles to Johnson, Kaymer contributed two-and-a-half points overall two years ago, also winning his Fourballs match with Ian Poulter against Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, and halving in the Foursomes with Westwood against Jim Furyk and Fowler.
Now, with memories of those encounters to draw on, Kaymer intends to learn from his rookie appearance and play an even bigger role at Medinah.
“When Lee and I played in the first group on the Friday morning, it was a situation that I had looked forward to for so many weeks,” he recalled. “All of a sudden it was happening, and it’s very difficult to explain the feeling I had.
“I wasn’t really nervous, I was more excited, and I wanted to show the people and show myself that I could perform on the biggest stage possible in golf. It doesn’t really get bigger than that. Thinking about that first morning still gives me goosebumps. It was a feeling I’d never had on a golf course before.
“The week went by so quickly and all of a sudden I was standing there ready for the start. I didn’t really have a lot of time to practise and get ready for a golf tournament – because it still is a golf tournament.
“We had so many things to do – interviews, photos and all those things – that you can’t schedule yourself. Someone else does your schedule, so it’s a bit more difficult to plan your own preparation. I would like to get to Chicago a little earlier this year to prepare more thoroughly and make sure that when I’m standing on the tee on the Friday, I’m ready.
“In 2010 I wanted it so badly. I really wanted to play nicely. I was in the middle of a very good spell at that stage – I’d won the US PGA Championship and then the KLM Open - so I was playing well, but I didn’t let it happen. I was too stiff and too intense, and wanting it too badly. This year I will try to enjoy it a little more and just try not to put myself under too much pressure.”
Following the high of that unforgettable victory in Wales, Kaymer went on to claim a third title in consecutive European Tour appearances when he captured the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, which in turn helped him to win The 2010 Race to Dubai and share the Golf of the Year award with Celtic Manor hero Graeme McDowell.
The following February, after successfully defending the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and reaching the final of the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship, he ascended to the game’s summit, before claiming his tenth European Tour title at the end of the 2011 season with victory at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
However, as he returns to The Ryder Cup fold, Kaymer finds himself in a decidedly different position to two years ago following a period of swing transition and a struggle to find form.
It has, as the 27 year old readily admits, been a challenging season thus far, but recent performances, including a share of fifth place in the BMW Italian Open presented by CartaSi, hint that Kaymer could just be coming good at the right time.
“Two years ago it was a period of time when I played incredibly well,” he said “I played four events and I won them all in a row, with the third being The Ryder Cup. It was a really, really good time where you don’t think about anything.
“You step on the first tee on the Thursday morning and you know the score you have to shoot to raise the trophy. There was never really a doubt that I would have chance on the Sunday. Those things have changed a little bit. I have changed a few things in my swing and so you adapt a little and play a little more controlled, and not as free. So you lose a bit of distance as well. I would never say that was a wrong decision though, because I grew as a player.
“It’s not that dramatic though. I’m not worried about it. It’s just a time you have to go through and I am completely fine with that. It can change very quickly and once I have that feeling again, that I had a couple of years ago, I will be back where I used to be. I just don’t know when that time will come and I need to be patient.”
As the last man to automatically qualify for José María Olazábal’s European Team, Kaymer has already felt under pressure during the current Ryder Cup campaign, and he admits it was a big relief to hold off the challenge of subsequent Captain’s Pick Nicolas Colsaerts to seal his ticket to Chicago.
He is determined to make the most of his chance and perform to the best of his ability for Europe’s inspirational Spanish figurehead.
“When you see the two or three guys playing well all of a sudden and Nicolas playing well in America and Gleneagles, you do get a bit concerned so it was a bit of a relief,” he said.
“I have never checked so many times the leaderboard without me playing as I did during those two weeks to check if I would make it or not. I was following him almost every hole, because it is such a huge thing to be part of The Ryder Cup. In the end we both made it and we can both be happy.
“I’ve been working hard on my game since then because I really want to play in The Ryder Cup and be successful there. I want to be a positive part of The Ryder Cup, not making it but just being there. I am fighting and working.
“Once you have played one Ryder Cup you never want to miss another one and to go to America and play for José María Olazábal’s Team is going to be an amazing experience.”