At last year’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, the two-times major winner had us lapping up every word as he related his country’s football World Cup win in Brazil to almost every question he was asked about his game.
It was a press conference you felt would be hard to beat yet Kaymer managed that yesterday, using his pre-Omega Dubai Desert Classic chat to reveal how he had overcome the bitter experience of suffering the biggest collapse in golf history in the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship nine days earlier.
After throwing away a ten-shot lead with 13 holes to play in the opening event of the “Gulf Swing”, the 30-year-old would have been forgiven if he’d felt like jumping on the fastest rollercoaster on the planet at Ferrari World without wearing a seatbelt or tossing himself off the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest artificial structure.
Instead, Kaymer quickly used some soul searching to realise he could use the disappointment as a huge positive rather than a negative, just as Rory McIlroy did when he bounced back from blowing a big lead in the final round of the 2011 Masters to become US Open champion in his next outing in a major.
“It wasn’t just a big golf lesson, it was a huge life lesson,” admitted Kaymer. “It was like what happened to Rory a few years ago at the Masters. When he lost that back-nine lead, it was shocking and sad to see and it’s tough to handle those situations. But, if you deal with it honestly and gain more motivation, then you can do what he did and come out a few months later and win the US Open by 20 shots or whatever.
“I’ve been having some hard conversations with my dad [Horst] and my brother [Philip]in private and I do believe what happened will help me improve in the future. So I am very glad I went through it. If I had won in Abu Dhabi again [for a fourth time] everybody would have joked, ‘Oh yeah, why don’t they rename the place the Martin Kaymer golf course and all those sort of things’.
“Yes, it would have been good to gain a few more world ranking points and another beautiful trophy in my house. But what happened instead – that will be better for me.”
Like compatriot Bernhard Langer, Kaymer’s career has been peppered with performances smacking of German efficiency, including a runaway win in the US Open at Pinehurst last year, when he also recorded an impressive victory in the Players’ Championship at Sawgrass. He admitted, however, that over-confidence had perhaps played its part as the door was opened for Frenchman Gary Stal to claim the title on this occasion.
“I think Abu Dhabi just shows you that German engineering doesn’t always work,” he said, smiling. “It does usually, but once in a while it comes unstuck.
“I think when you start off a final round with a big lead and then you begin birdie, birdie, par, birdie, you almost feel like not much can go wrong. And, in golf, that little bit of too much confidence can hurt and it’s a very fine line.
“How I felt that day is not the person I am and not the person I want to be. It did not feel natural to me and it becomes very difficult because it is an unknown situation, and one you don’t want to be in. Afterwards I asked myself how did I get into it and why did I get into it. And all those answers I got, they will prove important to me going forward.”
Kaymer lines up this week in another star-studded field that includes world No 1 McIlroy and second-ranked Henrik Stenson as well as Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood and, of course, double defending champion Stephen Gallacher.
Asked if he was in Dubai to prove a point, Kaymer, who finished birdie-birdie-eagle to end up a shot behind Tiger Woods in this event in 2008, replied: “Prove a point for who, that’s the question. That was part of the reflection, as well. Who do you do it for? Do you do it for others, to meet their expectations? Do you do it for yourself?
“I didn’t come here to Dubai to prove to others that I could win a golf tournament. I proved many, many times before that I can win. I’ve been in many situations that were more difficult, more important, so I know it has nothing to do with my game.
“The way I played the Sunday, I did play worse than Thursday, Friday, Saturday, but I had reasons, and those reasons were nothing to do with my swing or anything. What happened on Sunday has never happened in my career before, leading by ten shots at one stage and then losing. It was a new situation and actually I’m very glad that it happened. Because it happens at one stage in your career.”
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