HE WOULDN’T even consider taking him on at arm wrestling but Martin Kaymer is aiming to muscle his way into the picture when Rory McIlroy faces his date with destiny this week.
In the build-up to his bid to become just the sixth player to complete a career Grand Slam, a lot of attention has been paid to how much McIlroy’s physique has changed during his rise to the game’s pinnacle position.
“Obviously Rory is a strong boy,” noted Kaymer in the latest in a string of riveting press conferences. “Like me, he was quite chubby five years ago, but now he looks a good solid unit.
“You can see that his whole focus is on winning tournaments, seeing where is the limit physically. I don’t know what stuff he does mentally, but the physical part is obviously very obvious.”
While no weakling himself – he playfully flexed his muscles when asked about his own gym regime – Kaymer reckons “guidance” is the key to each individual achieving what is right for them in that aspect.
“I think I have a good balance of doing it,” he added. “You always want to do more as an athlete. But sometimes you feel like more could be worse, because if you’re not 100 per cent sure what you’re doing, so you need a bit of guidance.”
Much of the guidance Kaymer, who is halfway to a career Grand Slam himself and would love to win this week to be the man in McIlroy’s shoes heading into this summer’ Open at St Andrews, has received during his career has come from compatriot Bernhard Langer. It has helped him win two majors so far and now Kaymer has a first Green Jacket in his sights after spending valuable time in the company of the double Masters champion yesterday. “It would take a long time to discuss that,” replied Kaymer with a smile to being asked what advice he’d received over the years from Langer about playing here. “But it’s more about angles, about positions. Playing with him can be quite frustrating sometimes because you think you should be hitting the ball a lot longer; you should do certain things better because you are younger, but you are not. This is very, very impressive to see.
“So, too, is the fact that, despite the fact I’m 25-26 years younger than him, I don’t think I’m that much better when it comes down to flexibility in the gym than he is.” Unlike Langer, Kaymer has little to savour so far in this event. He missed the cut on his first four appearances and joint-31st 12 months ago is the best the US Open champion has mustered since ending that streak. “In the past, I came here feeling I only had a very tiny chance,” he admitted. “The first three or four years I wasn’t really able to play the golf course the way it was supposed to be played. Then I adjusted a few things (by learning to be more adept at hitting a draw) and played it really well the last two years only to struggle a little on the greens. So if I can put those things together, the putting from the first three or four years and the playing from the last couple years, I’ll be okay.
“It’s still a little bit against the natural, but I can make it work. At least I have an option. I know how to hit the shot and it gives you a relief that you actually can compete with the others now”
By the sounds of things, he is ready to take on McIlroy, though definitely not at arm-wrestling. “After seeing those pictures, I don’t want to even go there,” declared Kaymer. “I give him the win,” he added, nodding.
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