After reaching world number one, Martin Kaymer decided to make a significant swing change. Two seasons of inconsistency followed, ended with aplomb in 2014 by a Players Championship and US Open double, the latter by a dominant eight-shot margin. Now 30, the German has put his swing troubles behind him and is ready to add to his two Majors – starting at St Andrews…
Q. You lead from day one at Pinehurst last year… Is that a tough challenge?
In that situation you can only beat yourself. You have to deal with your own emotions, and you are the only one who can screw up the tournament. Jordan [Spieth]’s performance at the Masters was similar to mine at Pinehurst last year because he did not hold back. He got into the lead and kept going, and he did not play defensive golf. He kept going for the par-fives in two, and his putting was brilliant, so there was a similarity. No one could catch Jordan as long as he continued to play the same way, and it was the same for me at Pinehurst.
Q. What’s the secret to closing out a lead?
You can never really relax, no matter how big your lead. Whether you are playing strokes or match play, you need to play until the last shot. For example, my focus was slightly off when I played the 16th hole in that final round in the US Open and I three-putted. In those big moments in important tournaments, the smallest lack of concentration can make a huge difference. I learned that at Pinehurst. It was a mistake I don’t want to make again.
Q. Can you win the Open this year?
We will be playing one of the biggest tournaments in the world on my favourite golf course… I really thought I had a good chance to win that 2010 Open. In the end Louis [Oosthuizen] ran away with it but I had a good chance. A couple of months later I won the Alfred Dunhill there. The Open has always been the tournament I want to win the most. Hopefully I’ll give myself a chance.
Q. Bernhard Langer has been something of a mentor to you – what have you learned from him?
It probably has nothing to do with golf, but just how you express yourself and how you are as a person. You can learn from how calm he is and how much harmony there is around him. Bernhard always says, “You have to be happy off the golf course in order to be happy on the course”.
Q. Do you agree with some players that golf shouldn’t be in the Olympics?
Winning Olympic Gold would be bigger than a Green Jacket or Claret Jug. If you win a Major, it’s only for yourself, your caddie, and the people close to you. But the Olympics are for all the other athletes and your country. Just to carry the German flag for that opening ceremony would be an unbelievable experience. And with golf, it’s the first one in 100 years, which makes it even more special. I’d love to be the first player to win an Olympic Gold in golf since it was reintroduced.
Q. Are you looking to get back to the top of the rankings?
I’m not too caught up with being world number one anymore. For me, it’s about Majors – I want to win as many as possible. If that takes me back to world number one then fine, but right now Rory is the best player in the world and he deserves to be up there.