World No. 1 Kaymer Chilled About Augusta
By Stephanie Wei under The Masters

Martin Kaymer doesn’t feel added pressure heading into The Masters, the first major of the year. At least that was his sentiment almost three weeks ago when he stopped to chat in between hitting range balls at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, Florida, on the eve of the Transitions Championship. The straight-talking German called it “just another tournament” (in fact, several times during our five-minute interview).

“For me, the biggest major is the British Open,” said Kaymer, the world’s no. 1 ranked golfer. “It’s always been a goal of mine to win there. The Masters, of course, is one of the big four we have all year and you try to prepare a little different than for a regular PGA Tour event.

“It is a big deal on one end, but at the other, it’s just a tournament. Obviously, it’s a special one.”

Despite the ’10 PGA Championship winner’s nonchalant attitude, Kaymer made adjustments to his schedule and preparation. He admittedly hasn’t played well at Augusta, missing the cut in each of his three career appearances.

“The last three years I played tournaments the week before (Houston in ’09 and ’10), but this year I wanted to change something because I’ve never played well at The Masters,” said Kaymer at Innisbrook. “So now, I’m taking two weeks off.

“I’m going to go with my dad and my brother to Augusta the week before (last week). I’ll play a little, prepare a little. I’m sure I’m going to talk to my coach. I’m just going to spend a more time around the greens.”

Earlier last month at Doral, Kaymer mentioned he’s been working on drawing the ball with his woods. In the last three years, his biggest disadvantage at Augusta was struggling to hit a draw off the tee. Later that day, when Ernie Els was asked for his opinion, he said, laughing, “I think Martin’s draw will still be a soft fade,” adding he didn’t think Kaymer needed to change anything. In fact, his high, soft fade are perfect for shots into the greens.

“The fade is a safe shot,” explained Kaymer. “If I hit the high fade, then it’s an advantage because then I don’t get a lot of roll on the greens. But on the tee shots, I need to be able to draw the ball to make the course a lot shorter.

“The way I played the last three years, I made (the course) even more difficult. My drives were straight to a fade and I couldn’t really cut corners. On 13, the par-5, it makes a big difference if you can draw the ball around the corner, you can have a mid-iron to the green. I sometimes even struggled to get home in two. I had 3-wood one day and that’s not a hole where you want to have a 3-wood coming home.”

In other words, it’d be nearly impossible to hold the green with a wood. If the longer hitters, like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson, have mid-irons into par-5s, that’s a lot of shots to spot guys like Kaymer, along with the short knockers, over four days.

Now we’ll have to wait to see if Kaymer’s change of strategy and adjustments pay off. Obviously, he’s proven he has the calm and steady demeanor to win a major, but conquering Augusta is a different, tougher test.

“It’s a big tournament, but it’s just another tournament,” said Kaymer. “I don’t want to change my swing or anything for just one week of the year.”

(AP Photo/Mike Carlson)