x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Martin Kaymer: the giant who has crept up on all of us

The German has kept under the radar as he has soared to the edge of winning the Race to Dubai and being crowned world No 1

Martin Kaymer, the quiet and unassuming German, has risen through the ranks from No 76 in the world in 2008 to  No 3 this year. By the time the Race to Dubai concludes on Sunday, he could be No 1.
Martin Kaymer, the quiet and unassuming German, has risen through the ranks from No 76 in the world in 2008 to No 3 this year. By the time the Race to Dubai concludes on Sunday, he could be No 1.

Now, you do not expect the winner of a French Open on the European PGA Tour to hold some multi-day celebratory blast involving gluttony and din and mangled sleep patterns.

Still, a modest fete would not warrant any outrage, so I remain partial to a story Martin Kaymer told at the 2009 British Open, just weeks after he won that particular French Open. With Kaymer firmly established as the giant we somehow barely know, this anecdote seems instructive.

"Well, the way I celebrated in France was very weird," he said. "My father, he came over for the weekend, and we drove, like, my father and I drove to France. And on the way back we stopped at the gas station, just had a drink there. And we were like, 'Cheers, well done. All right, let's go. Let's go home again.'"

If, and probably, when Kaymer goes ahead and wins the Race to Dubai at Jumeirah Golf Estates on the weekend, I plan to think of Horst and Martin in some French petrol station, because it illuminates as much as anything how this steep ascent happened both so rapidly and yet quietly.

Just less than three years ago, Kaymer turned up at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship as 2007 Rookie of the Year - nice honour - and at a thoroughly anonymous No 76 in the world.

With a greenhorn's modesty he marvelled at the hotel as "huge" and "unbelievable" and "seven-star" and "perfect" and said: "You can get everything, whatever you want."

He said that once he reached Dubai two weeks thence, he would see Tiger Woods for the first time, and that he did not know whether his idol Ernie Els would recognise him, but that he might given they played together for two days in Munich seven months prior, so, "I think he still knows my face but I don't know."

He spoke of his steadiness from the tee and said: "A lot of German journalists, they are writing a lot of nice things about me, and when I read this, I think, 'Oh, I have to play good, otherwise I don't know what's going on in Germany.'"

And upon snaring his maiden Tour victory in Abu Dhabi, he said he pretty much yearned for mere inclusion in the WGC-Accenture World Match Play in Arizona that February, but did not know if the win had propelled him into the top 35 until a Tour official informed him that it had (to No 34).

Look now. Not quite yet 26 and not even 35 months on, he has won a major tournament (the 2010 PGA Championship), played on a winning Ryder Cup team, soared to the edge of winning the sprawling Race to Dubai and forced the permutation people at the rankings office to deduce his very realistic paths to No 1 in the world.

The previous German golfing giant, Bernhard Langer, calls Kaymer "a wonderful guy" with "a fantastic temperament".

His eight Tour victories reveal that a guy born in Dusseldorf in a country oblivious to professional golf somehow arrived equipped with the often hard-won knack for knowing how to win.

In an ever-mysterious sport, maybe it has something to do with how one treats winning and losing and whether one deems a quick trip to a petrol station sufficient for acknowledging the former.

"And you kind of learn it," Kaymer said of winning at that British Open when he came off victories in France and Scotland at age 24.

"How to react and how your body changed or how your swing changed as well, if you're in contention. Everything is a little different.

"And if you know how to handle it and what will happen when you are in contention again or close to winning a tournament, then you can probably fix the problem. If it's a problem, you can fix it, earlier and quicker.

"But I think it's very important, as well, how you grow up. Like, how your parents, how they raised you. And that's very important, too. And obviously, the people around you, if they are calm people or a little freaky, if you say that."

For the sheer gruel of climbing through all the way from No 76 to No 3 through the absurdly talented golfers with the microscopic differences between them to a vista on No 1 within three years, tranquillity surely helps.

It cannot hurt to deflate in mind the big idea of winning, a theme Kaymer has mentioned on occasion.

It cannot hurt to make a quick stop at the petrol station and then carry on down the road.


Tee-off times

07:30    Thomas Aiken (Rsa),    Soren Hansen (Den)
07:40    Robert-Jan Derksen (Ned),    Johan Edfors (Swe)
07:50    Gregory Bourdy (Fra),    Thomas Bjorn (Den)
08:00    Robert Rock (Eng),    Marcus Fraser (Aus)
08:10    Henrik Stenson (Swe),    Gary Boyd (Eng)
08:20    John Parry (Eng),    Chris Wood (Eng)
08:30    Oliver Wilson (Eng),    Richie Ramsay (Sco)
08:40    Soren Kjeldsen (Den),    Brett Rumford (Aus)
08:50    Sergio Garcia (Spa),    Ignacio Garrido (Spa)
09:00    Jamie Donaldson (Wal),    Raphael Jacquelin (Fra)
09:15    Noh Seung-yul (Kor),    Thongchai Jaidee (Thai)
09:25    YE Yang (Kor),    Peter Lawrie (Ire)
09:35    Gareth Maybin (NI),    Damien McGrane (Ire)
09:45    Alejandro Canizares (Spa),    Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Spa)
09:55    Simon Dyson (Eng),    Darren Clarke (NI)
10:05    David Horsey (Eng),    Matteo Manassero (Ita)
10:15    Joost Luiten (Ned),    Gregory Havret (Fra)
10:25    Stephen Gallacher (Sco),    Simon Khan (Eng)
10:35    Retief Goosen (Rsa),    Danny Willett (Eng)
10:45    Anders Hansen (Den),    Robert Karlsson (Swe)
11:00    Fredrik Andersson Hed (Swe),    Richard Green (Aus)
11:10    Padraig Harrington (Ire),    Rhys Davies (Wal)
11:20    Peter Hanson (Swe),    Alvaro Quiros (Spa)
11:30    Ross Fisher (Eng),    Luke Donald (Eng)
11:40    Rory McIlroy (NI),    Paul Casey (Eng)
11:50    Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa),    Edoardo Molinari (Ita)
12:00    Charl Schwartzel (Rsa),    Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spa)
12:10    Ernie Els (Rsa),    Ian Poulter (Eng)
12:20    Francesco Molinari (Ita),    Lee Westwood (Eng)
12:30    Graeme McDowell (NI),    Martin Kaymer (Ger)