Saturday 7 December 2019

How miracle of Medinah drove Martin to further glory

Putt that sealed Ryder Cup will always be a part of Kaymer story

Martin Kaymer
Martin Kaymer

Ewan Murray

The moment captivated millions, worldwide. A Glaswegian caddie, Craig Connelly, thought of football in an effort to calm his anxiety. "Germans never miss in penalty shootouts, do they?" he told himself. Connelly's boss, Martin Kaymer, converted from six feet on the 18th. Europe's miraculous Ryder Cup comeback in Chicago was complete.

"The putt comes up immediately and it will do so for the rest of my life," says Kaymer when asked of Medinah memories. "Standing there, I remember it was all quite clear. I had made many of those putts in the past. In tournaments and in practice. I just knew I had to make it. There was nothing else in that moment.

"In the aftermath, and I have said this many times, I feel like I was given a gift. A huge gift. I was given the opportunity to make one of the most pressure-filled and memorable putts in the history of our sport. So, yes, memories are strong and will stay with me for the rest of my life.

"I was given that gift by my team-mates, by my own doing and by the whole situation that arose. I was fortunate to be the hero in the end but we all know I would not have had a chance to be the hero if my team-mates hadn't been superheroes earlier in that day. Such is sport. I was fortunate to make the glory putt."

It was more endearing than that. Kaymer qualified for Jose Maria Olazabal's team automatically but a dismal run of form before the event had prompted questions as to whether he would participate. Olazabal's words of encouragement helped, but, so too, did those of Bernhard Langer.

"I will never forget my chats with Bernhard," Kaymer says. "They were very, very helpful, both for me as a person and also for my performance at the Ryder Cup. It is fine once you learn how to handle the situation. For some it is natural. For me it was a little difficult as a rookie in 2010. That was why the talks with Bernard helped me so much in 2012. He made me realise some very important things and said things that triggered me in the right direction, as well as helped me improve my mindset in this team event. It is very special since it is such an individual sport pretty much 103 out of104 weeks in these two-year cycles."

Thankfully, Kaymer's individual triumphs mean he will not forever be known for one solid putting stroke. He shrugs off the notion that discussion of what was a one-up singles success over Steve Stricker could ever become tiresome. "I am not fed up talking about it yet and I don't see a reason why I should be," he says. "I am happy to be remembered for it."

Kaymer is not only one of the most engaging and popular players at the top of the sport, he is up there with the hardest workers. The 29-year-old combines a ferocious fitness regime with range sessions that, when Kaymer was looking to recover from another dip post-Medinah, would make his hands bleed.

His human touch was evident a week ago in Atlanta airport. Kaymer noticed two young French girls who had problems with card payments for $30-worth of Starbucks goods. They didn't - and still don't - know who the young man was who stepped forward to hand over cash on their behalf so as to avert a scene.

Kaymer is not nearly as charitable on the course. He triumphed at the Players Championship in May before adding a second major when obliterating the field at the US Open the following month at Pinehurst.

What had earlier transpired in that team environment, Kaymer concedes, assisted with levels of determination. Just when Gleneagles looked like an unattainable dream, those two victories secured an automatic return to the European side.

"How things worked out at Medinah gave me a lot of satisfaction and belief in myself," Kaymer says. "I knew what I was doing when it came to improving on my game and, yes, having made the putt gave me sort of a backbone to work from when trying to reach new heights. I believe we are all in it for the long run.

"I didn't change anything and am not planning to do so just now. I have a plan and together with my coach and the rest of my team, I work hard to this plan. Results this year were the outcome of sticking to the plan during the last two years.

"Earlier this spring, I knew that I was ready to play [well] again and I became more relaxed, more focused at executing shots. Motivation comes and goes, yes. But I don't believe in complete overhauls of goals and plans because of a week or two."

That Kaymer and Rory McIlroy between them hold three of the major titles is pertinent in Europe's installation as strong favourites. For all Kaymer draws on what has come before, he also lives in the present. "There is no denying that our team has performed very, very well but going into Gleneagles you can only carry that as a positive in your preparation," says the former world No1.

"It is a new week, a new event and it is important, like any other week, not to rely on what has happened in the past. We will have to give it our all to beat this US side, no matter what has transpired up to now or who is on their team. I am very much looking forward to it. I can't wait to see all the Scots; they know their golf and I am sure we are in for another loud and exciting three days."

Kaymer knows what it is like to give a continent something to shout about. How he would love a repeat performance.

Observer

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