An old head on young shoulders

Martin Kaymer recently sat down with Matt Cooper and looked ahead to this week’s BMW International Open. Here’s the Q & A

When viewed from a distance – as he walks down a fairway contemplating his next shot – Germany’s Martin Kaymer is reminiscent of a cool, calm central defender.
Tall, straight-backed and never rushed, you get the impression that he knows his own game inside out and probably knows almost as much about the games of his opponents too.
But when you get up close the first thought to strike you is: “He is young. He is very, very young.”
And that youth seems totally at odds with the previous impression of mature serenity and yet on reflection it sums him up completely – he is frighteningly young but he it just so happens that he is seriously unflappable as well.
He proved as much 12 months ago when he won the BMW International Open, the title he will be defending in Munich this week.
It was a dramatic victory: he had a five shot lead at halfway, extended it to six shots after round three, but collapsed on the final day and was caught by Anders Hansen.
Most 23-year-olds would have folded in the subsequent play-off, appalled at having fluffed the original opportunity and fearful of further disappointing a passionate home crowd.
But Kaymer didn’t panic.
Instead he birdied the first extra hole and was cheered to victory by the flag-waving crowd.
“I just kept fighting,” he said of the exhausting final day. “It was very exciting and to be the first German to win this tournament is very special for me.”
Aside from his demeanour the other standout feature of Kaymer’s career has been his swift and impressive progression to the top of the game.
He turned professional in 2006 and promptly won five times on the EPD Tour in Germany (one of Europe’s third tier tours).
That success earned him invitations to play on the Challenge Tour and rarely has a player taken his chance so well: he won twice, added another four top four finishes and needed just eight starts to get his European Tour card for 2007.
Three times in that debut year he came agonisingly close to victory – in Portugal, Wales and Sweden – as he finished 41st in the Order of Merit and was voted Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year.
He spent the following winter training in Scottsdale and the hard work paid immediate dividends when he won the Abu Dhabi Championship at the start of 2008.
Two weeks later he very nearly caught Tiger Woods in Dubai and five months after that he gained his second success in Munich.
Last winter he returned to Scottsdale before thriving again in the Middle East.
Since then his form has been a little patchy, but he did register his best finish on the PGA Tour (11th at the high quality Quail Hollow Championship) and two top 20 finishes in England during May.
Ahead of the European Open last month, Martin sat down on the range with our Matt Cooper and looked ahead to his defence of the BMW International Open.
Golf365: Hello, Martin, first of all I wanted to discuss Scottsdale, Arizona where you have spent the last couple of winters training. It’s a bit different to here isn’t it?! (It was freezing cold, very windy and threatening to rain as we talked behind the range.)
Martin Kaymer:
Yes, very different! Actually I now live in Scottsdale when I am in the States. I used to just visit but it made sense to have a base and it is just perfect there. It’s really great: great weather, great facilities and great golf courses.
Golf365: And a big community of professional golfers too.
Martin Kaymer:
That’s right. There are a lot of players from the PGA Tour, but a few Europeans as well including Paul Casey, of course. But I originally went out there with Alex Noren. Chris Hanell and Aaron Baddeley are out there too and I play with them sometimes.
Golf365: Are the conditions a lot like the Middle-East?
Martin Kaymer:
Yes! It is very true, amazing almost. They look the same with the desert, the courses are similar, the grass is the same. Paul Casey has proved it works for those early season courses in the Middle-East. There is a big similarity, I
Golf365: You’ve had a really swift rise through the pro ranks, improving year on year. Does that put a bit pressure on 2009 because you feel the need to maintain the upward curve?
Martin Kaymer:
Well I haven’t won yet this year but you are right. This winter I took some time out to consider how things have gone so far and I had to acknowledge how much I had achieved. I had to say that I mustn’t be too hard on myself if things didn’t go well this year; to have some perspective. I have clearly got into a good position very quickly so that needs to be taken into account.
Golf365: Who were your inspirations growing up? The obvious suggestion is Bernhard Langer.
Martin Kaymer:
Yes, Bernhard was someone I looked up to as the only German golfer of note, but Ernie Els was the man for me. I loved the way it appeared so easy for him. I liked that he was a big man with a smooth touch.
Golf365: Langer always played well in front of home crowds and that is something you’ve done too.
Martin Kaymer:
Yes, I enjoy being in Germany and playing in front of a home crowd. My debut on the Challenge Tour was in Germany and I won it. There is some pressure but it is also good to play well in front of friends and family.
Golf365: Germans are traditionally thought of as well-prepared and calm. You seem typical of that. Is that a fair assessment?
Martin Kaymer:
Well, yes, it is a bit of a cliché but then it is probably true of Bernhard and also of me!
Golf365: It almost seems like the best club in your bag is your head – you’re so composed.
Martin Kaymer:
I think so! What was it Bernhard Langer said about me? I have an old head on young shoulders.
Golf365: And where does that come from? Is it natural?
Martin Kaymer:
I think it comes from my parents. They brought me up to be calm and controlled. But I am very relaxed anyway.
Golf365: You were invited to attend the last Ryder Cup by Nick Faldo as an observer and accepted. Do you think you could stay calm in that environment?
Martin Kaymer:
I hope so! I think it really helped going out there and seeing what it was like. I watched the players and began to understand the pressure they are under. But it also really made me want to qualify for the team. I want some of that pressure!
Golf365: We’ll finish with a few lighter questions, Martin. Favourite film?
Martin Kaymer:
Men of Honor.
Golf365: Favourite food?
Martin Kaymer:
Steak. Definitely steak.
Golf365: Favourite football team?
Martin Kaymer:
Golf365: Favourite golf course?
Martin Kaymer:
Augusta – it’s got to be Augusta. I’ve not done so well (two missed cuts) so far but it is so exciting and so tough. I’m talking really, really tough.
Golf365: And is the Masters the event you’d most like to win?
Martin Kaymer:
Oh yes. That would be great and I think it suits me too. I loved the challenge of it – I just want to go