Grass looks greener as Martin Kaymer sows the first seeds of recovery
This time last year, Martin Kaymer was an ominous presence in the Open championship reckoning, a name on most short-lists. He’d won in Abu Dhabi, he’d been second at Dove Mountain, third in Spain and fourth in France. He wasn’t as hot as he was in 2010 when everything he touched seemed to turn to gold but he was formidable enough – and after two rounds at Sandwich he was one shot off the lead, a lurking figure tucked in behind Darren Clarke.
There was a time when Kaymer contending for tournaments was as natural as night following day, but things have changed a little of late. When he did his talking the other day he spoke more about weeds than wedges, more about the mundane task of the mental benefits of switching off and mowing his grandmother’s lawn in Dusseldorf than pulling up trees with the majesty of his game. No wonder. After going 78-77 on the weekend at the French Open it was convenient to ignore the way he’s been scoring. It’s been six years since he’s got this far into the season without landing a victory, but the absence of a win hasn’t been the most worrying bit; it’s been his lack of competitiveness that’s been stark.
He says he’s surrounded by people who are not afraid to tell him the truth about his game. Marvellous. “I have good people around me. I’m fortunate to have very good parents, who are very honest with me – even when I’ve played badly. Honesty helps make a difference if you’ve lost a bit of focus. No one can be mad at you if they are honest and tell you what they think.”
You mess with the swing at your peril, though. You end up falling off the radar and end up talking about the simple pleasures of gardening in the media centre at Castle Stuart. “It’s fun, it’s different, I think you can call it therapy,” he said. Yes, yes, Martin. Of course it is, but what about all these high numbers you’ve been shooting? The kind of comfort he received yesterday was altogether more satisfying than clipping a hedge. The birdies returned and Kaymer looked more like his old self. Six in his first nine holes, seven in his first 11. With three to play, Kaymer had got it to 11-under and everybody was thinking ‘Woah! He’s back.’ Frailties hurt him in the end, though. Two bogeys in his last three holes took the beauty off his round; a sure-fire 66 became a steady 68 for nine-under, but the smile was there regardless. Kaymer is bang there, his presence on the leaderboard both overdue and welcome.
“I think it’s a mind-set and a belief in yourself,” he said later. “Obviously, I can play golf. It’s just not been happening this year. Two years ago I thought I could win every tournament I played. Now it’s about getting into a position on Saturday and Sunday and then seeing where you can go.”
It’s too early to be putting him among the fancied ones for Lytham – he’s available at 33-1 if you fancy it – but there are signs of improvement, no question. He finished his round here and went straight to the practice ground to work on the long irons that caused him some bother on those closing holes. His swing is an evolving thing, he says. He began to tweak it after he won the USPGA in that play-off with Bubba Watson, the American going for a miracle shot that merely served to hand the German the title on a plate.
“I was changing things with my swing to become an even better player and to win even more tournaments,” said Kaymer. “It was something I needed to do but if you change the swing it does take time for you to start winning tournaments.
“I think other people were more concerned about it than me. It was always my goal to adjust my swing at some stage and when I got to number one in the world and won a major I thought that was a good time to do it. I probably would have won a couple more over the next few years if I stuck with my swing, but long term, I wanted to be a better player and I had to make those changes. If I keep working hard on my golf and fitness I think I will have a couple of more wins that I would not have had otherwise. My swing was very outside to inside and I wasn’t able to draw the ball. Now I can do both. Sometimes!”
Maybe the frustration is coming to an end now. Maybe.
Three off the lead with two rounds to go. If Kaymer can finish well here then we might start believing more in his chances next week. If you like your punting, perhaps you should take a piece of the 33s before it’s gone.
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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