Kaymer better suited to handle major spotlight

By Jason SobelJune 16, 2014, 2:09 am

PINEHURST, N.C. – Martin Kaymer won the 114th U.S. Open championship by a million and one strokes on Sunday, which should once again vault him directly into the spotlight.

He’ll become a household name. His Q-rating will skyrocket. Hey, maybe he’ll even get a bag deal.

That’s terrific news, right? Well, not exactly.

There’s a strange juxtaposition in the world of professional golf. Those who gravitate toward the game at a young age for its insular nature, spending so many lonesome hours on the range in solitary pursuit of finding a secret in the dirt, often become proficient enough that they are eventually thrust into the limelight.

We expect them to be congenial and affable. We expect them to walk in the confident footsteps of Arnold Palmer and Seve Ballesteros and Phil Mickelson. We expect them to act like superstars.

Kaymer has been in this position before. He won the 2010 PGA Championship and became the world’s No. 1-ranked player six months later.

And he hated it. Or at least, he didn’t really enjoy it.

Not the part about reaching the pinnacle of what every golfer strives for, but living life in that bubble. Absorbing attention when he never actually craved it.

He talked about this last year. It was during a quiet moment on a practice green, after his No. 1 ranking had ballooned to something more inconspicuous. After his major championship win had been surpassed by so many others.

“Everything you do, everything you say, all of a sudden becomes very important. You’re not really used to that,” he said at the time. “Tiger [Woods] grew up with it since he was a child –all the media, all the attention. But for the rest of us, it’s not normal. It really takes some time.”

It’s not that he’s unaccommodating. In fact, the very opposite is true. Kaymer is considerate to a fault. He’s been asked to address the swing changes which led to his downfall in recent years so many times that it would leave most other players spitting fire when asked again. He simply tries to explain it for the thousandth time in the same way as the first.

He deflects attention, rather than coveting it. He is humble, not boastful. He is unassuming, pleasant, cordial and attentive – basically, everything we hope our superstar athletes will be and nothing we expect.

All of that will be on display as he once again finds himself in the spotlight.

He will be asked questions that he wasn’t asked when ranked 68th just two months ago. He will be followed by cameras that didn’t follow him when he wasn’t winning tournaments.

And he believes he’ll handle the celebrity much better than he did before.

“Four years ago I didn't know what's happening,” he explained after Sunday’s runaway victory. “I was not expecting myself to win a major at 25. I was surprised about my performance. I was surprised about a lot of things. I couldn't handle a lot of things that happened in Germany, all the attention that I could get. And then becoming No. 1 in the world, that added another thing. And it was too much.”

At this point, the always sincere Kaymer allows a bit more into his psyche than most of his peers ever would.

“To be completely honest, it was very difficult to handle everything and to play good golf. So right now I am OK with talking to you in a very calm, normal, relaxed way, as if we were having a normal conversation. In the past, I always think I have to say something special and something that might be interesting. Now I just talk and it's a lot easier for me.”

Therein lies the secret as to why he might find more success in the wake of this major championship than he did after the last one.

Swing changes aside, his struggles following the PGA title might have been more directly correlated to spending time in the spotlight. They may have been the effect of a player achieving success in a solitary pursuit, then being forced to constantly explain it.

Kaymer is older now, 29, and wiser to the ways of the world. He’s endured attention thrust upon him and witnessed it being hauled away. He is better prepared for the perpetual glaze of eyeballs staring at him wherever he goes.

He understands this, too. When asked about this prospect following his U.S. Open win, Kaymer just smiled knowingly.

Then he answered: “It’s not exhausting for me anymore.”

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.