PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Martin Kaymer needed to reach the top of the world order before he could realize what he needed to change about his game.
If that sounds counterintuitive, well, it sort of is. We’ll let the German explain.
“When I became No. 1 (in February 2011), it was a surprise,” he said Friday. “I was not playing like the best player on the planet. I didn’t feel like the best player. And therefore, I needed to change a few things.”
So, just months after ascending to the top of the world rankings for the first time, he tried to change the shape of his shots to suit many of the right-to-left holes at Augusta National. That didn’t work – that year, he missed the cut for the fourth time in as many tries – and he hasn’t been the same player since.
Sure, there was the WGC victory in late 2011, and there was the critical singles victory at the Ryder Cup, but more than that there was the steady decline in the rankings –– from second to fifth to 15th, from 20th to 30th and finally to 35th, where he currently sits after last week’s T-9 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
“I didn’t care about that,” he said. “It was about that feeling that you have. If other people see you as being No. 1, but you don’t see yourself as No. 1, how can you play like No. 1?”
Now here he is, no longer in the spotlight, a “complete player” who can work the ball both ways, and in his best position at a major since he broke through at the 2010 PGA.
That week at Whistling Straits might be best remembered for BunkerGate, but it was Kaymer, then only 25, who hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy. In 11 major starts since, he has no top 10s and only a pair of top 25s.
At this week’s PGA, however, he has put together rounds of 68-68 to sit only three shots off the clubhouse lead.
Said Kaymer: “It was just a matter of time before everything falls together.”