• Fri. Dec 3rd, 2021

Martin Kaymer checks his highlight film, makes another one at PGA Championship

ByKelley Wheeler

Aug 7, 2020

You can call this a comeback. He hasn’t been here for years.

Not even Martin Kaymer could easily recognize the fellow who was the No. 1 golfer in the world, who won the PGA Championship 10 years ago and ran away with the U.S. Open six years ago, who drilled the winning putt for Europe in the 2012 Ryder Cup and won the Players Championship in 2014.

But he was quite familiar with his lookalike, the one who spent a forlorn week as an alternate to the Open Championship field at Royal Portrush and never got in, the guy who was ranked 191st in the world a year ago and is now 127th.

On Wednesday, Kaymer felt like doing something nice for himself. He dialed up YouTube and watched the final nine holes of that 8-stroke Open victory at Pinehurst, as close to an unspoiled good walk as you’ll ever find in tournament golf.

“I watched it and helped me believe my putting was good enough,” Kaymer said. “My ball striking was good. I went home after dinner and I was not that happy for some reason. I felt i needed to lift my spirit a little bit. I needed some positivity. It was nice to relive those moments.”

So Kaymer rose before dawn on Thursday and rolled back the years at Harding Park in San Francisco. He rolled in a 47-foot eagle in his fourth hole after a “bullet of a 3-wood” from 287 yards, he kept his tee shots in the civilized grass, and he came home with a four-under-par 66.

“Expectations were low,” he said.

How to explain Kaymer’s life at golf’s extremities? It began when everyone was convinced he was the No. 1 player of the world except him. The way he saw it, he couldn’t move the ball from right-to-left well enough to compete at the Masters, and if he couldn’t compete at the Masters, he obviously wasn’t the best player in the world.

Those mental contortions befell Kaymer just before a wrist injury did. But he seemed on top of his game in 2015, when he stepped out to a 10-shot lead with 13 holes left at Abu Dhabi. Incredibly, he shot a 75 and finished third, as Gary Stal of France won. He hasn’t played much You Tube-worthy golf since then.

In 2018 Kaymer missed nine cuts on the European Tour and had only three Top 10 finishes. He is only entered in this PGA because of his victory at Whistling Straits, when he bested Bubba Watson in a playoff after Dustin Johnson was penalized for grounding his club in a waste bunker.

“I watch that PGA sometimes, too,” Kaymer said. “It was a dramatic finish. I know you shouldn’t live in the past, but if the past can help you in this present moment, I’ll take it.

“My priorities have changed a little bit. Maybe I wasn’t as motivated as I should have been. To get back out here after the pandemic is a huge motivation, but the way these guys play golf today, the game has changed so much. It takes time to get used to it.”

You could argue that this PGA Championship is the most important sporting event to be played on schedule since the mass shutdown in March. Still, the cypress-lined fairways of Harding Park were nearly empty. It’s one thing to play in front of no fans in Hartford and Detroit, but major championships are like tent cities, dismantled after a week but alive nonetheless.

Rory McIlroy (70) was playing with Tiger Woods (68).

“They introduced him and mentioned that he was the 1999, 2000, 2006 and 2007 PGA champion, and then you hear nothing,” McIlroy said. “That’s pretty interesting.”

“It’s the new norm,” Woods said.

“You obviously work off this energy at a major championship,” said Jason Day (65). “Usually it’s buzzing from Monday through Sunday. But it’s still not the same. You feel it’s a major championship and you feel it on the range, the extra intensity. It was a little quieter out there. But it still doesn’t feel right.”

What felt very normal was the 66 by Brooks Koepka, the 2018 and 2019 champ who was largely disabled and disinterested until he finished second at Memphis last week. He played ominous, unrelenting golf Thursday, hitting 15 of 18 greens.

He also prospered because he went back to a Taylor Made driver, although he had been playing Callaway. “I won’t mention its name because they don’t pay me,” Koepka said, smiling.

“He finds his comfort zone in these tournaments,” McIlroy said. “I think we’re all lucky he doesn’t find it every week.”

Most of them just want to find the laptop.



Kelley Wheeler

Kelley Wheeler is a Metro reporter covering political issues and general assignments. A second-generation journalist, worked with all major news outlet, she holds a vast expeirience. Kelley is a graduate of USC with degrees in journalism and English literature. She is a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

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