There was a time not so long ago — late 2010, early 2011 — when Martin Kaymer was, by a considerable margin, the most potent force in tournament golf.
The German’s form in the months succeeding that major championship breakthrough at Whistling Straits, itself a veritable masterclass in clutch putting and high-stakes shot-making, suggested he might possess more than the raw material necessary to fashion a career at the highest level.
In his equanimity and ruthlessness there were hints of something greater — call them intangibles — perhaps even something genuinely great.
And then… a prolonged spell of mediocrity punctuated only by the occasional two-round cameo and infrequent flashes of brilliance (his final-round 63 to claim last year’s HSBC Champions).
Kaymer himself, still only 27, attributes his inconsistency to a decision he took in the wake of the 2011 Masters Tournament.
“Well, the problem is… if you know or if you’re leaving a golf course knowing ‑‑ not only knowing but believing — you can’t do well there, even though it’s maybe not the right thing to think. But every time I left Augusta, I was very frustrated, not because I had just missed the cut but the way I missed the cut, because I had no idea how it feels to hit a draw.
“Obviously I know you have to hit it inside‑outside with a shut club face, yes, okay, I’ve read that many times, but I didn’t know how it feels.”
“And I needed to create that feeling. I needed to learn what that feel means or how I can feel to hit a draw. So at that stage I was 25, and I thought I had a lot of years ahead of me, and I don’t want to live with that just hitting a fade my entire life and not knowing what could have been if I would have changed.”
The technical changes wrought by Kaymer and his coach, Gunther Kessler, in the wake of that decision destabilised what had been a carefully calibibrated approach to the game.
The German had only ever known one shot — a low, boring fade — and had swung with the confidence of a player capable of discounting an entire side of the golf course. Suddenly, there was a possibility of missing left.
“And that’s why it took me a long time… I wasn’t expecting that it would take a year and a half, almost two years to learn to hit that shot, but now I know how to hit a draw. It took me the last six months… to get back to my fade.
“But the feel of the fade was just somewhere sleeping in me. I just needed to wake it up again. I think now it’s awake, and the draw is added to my repertoire, so I’m a more complete player now. It’s still a little shaky, but it just has to come together and I’m ready to go.”
Kaymer, who describes having felt “a click” in his swing en route to a fifth-place finish at the Italian Open, considers himself better equipped to influence events this week than at Celtic Manor.
“Two years ago I played really well the weeks and months before, and I was expecting so much from myself. I was expecting to play even better in the Ryder Cup. I was almost tight; I couldn’t really loosen up and relax and enjoy the Ryder Cup in Europe. Now I’m a little bit more calm inside, which means, I think, you can really enjoy certain moments a lot more if you are not focusing on being normal, because in Wales I was just trying too hard. I couldn’t achieve my potential, my highest potential.”
Kaymer partnered Nicolas Colsaerts in practice yesterday.