Martin Kaymer’s friends may only have been joking when they labelled him a one-hit wonder, but the 29-year-old will take the perfect riposte back to Germany – the US Open trophy.
Kaymer’s first major title in the 2010 US PGA Championship came as a shock to the 25-year-old, who was equally unprepared to cope with becoming world number one six months later.
A fourth consecutive missed cut at the Masters contributed to his spell as number one lasting just eight weeks, but also prompted changes to his swing to cope with the demands of Augusta National, where a draw is more useful than Kaymer’s favoured fade.
What followed was hardly a dramatic slump, with a first World Golf Championship event won with a closing 63 in Shanghai later that year, but Kaymer did not win a full-field event in 2012 or 2013.
By the time of his heroics at Medinah in September 2012, Kaymer admitted he would not have picked himself for the Ryder Cup team, but having qualified he had little choice and played just once before his starring role in Sunday’s decisive singles.
Just five weeks before his stunning win at Pinehurst, Kaymer entered the Players Championship ranked 61st in the world, only to card a course record-equalling 63 in the first round on his way to a wire-to-wire victory.
“It shouldn’t sound cocky or arrogant, but I knew it would come,” Kaymer said. “I knew that I would play good golf again. There was enough belief there. I just didn’t think it would take me that much time to get back where I was, or actually not where I was, I think I play better golf now, I’m more of a complete player.
“It was just a matter of time so it’s not a huge surprise to me that I played good golf, it’s just a surprise that I won such big tournaments. That’s a surprise. But I’ll take it.”
Kaymer has packed a lot into his career already, shooting a round of 59 on the EPD Tour in Germany, holing the putt to ensure Europe retained the Ryder Cup at Medinah and becoming European number one in 2010.
He has now joined Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Seve Ballesteros as the only men to win two majors and reach world number one before the age of 30.
“It’s very tough to compare yourself to those legends,” Kaymer added. “When other people want to call me that it’s fine, but to win one major is already very nice in your career, but to win two, it means a lot more.
“Some friends called me a one-hit wonder with the majors, obviously in a funny way, and now I can go back and show them this trophy. My next tournament (the BMW International Open) will be in Cologne, where I live, so I will make sure to take that trophy with me.
“It’s quite a big proof to yourself that you cannot only win once, but you can win when it matters, you can win big tournaments. And I’m only 29 years old, so I hope I have another few years ahead of me.”
With Phil Mickelson, Darren Clarke and Els all winning majors in their 40s recently that is certainly true, and Kaymer should be better equipped to handle the attention second time around.
“Four years ago I didn’t know what’s happening,” he added. “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 in Germany, all the attention that I could get. And then becoming number one in the world, that added another thing and it was too much. To be completely honest, it was very difficult to handle everything and to play good golf.
“The swing improvements was one thing. I knew that I would struggle a little bit for a while, that I won’t be in contention every week. But getting so much attention and then all of a sudden, you don’t win again. So why is that? So why do you change? You have to answer all of those questions, and you don’t want to answer those questions all the time.
“You answer them once or twice and then that should be enough. But people keep going and I keep answering and answering. Why do you change if you win a major, you become number one in the world? And it’s annoying. I don’t want to be rude to people, so that’s why I kept answering. But I want to say that’s enough. I think we talked about it many times before.”