Kaymer wants to be No. 1 this week, not in the world

By Randall MellMay 9, 2014, 7:50 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Martin Kaymer dangles a small ball attached to a lanyard around his neck as part of his warm-up on the range.

He squeezes the ball between his forearms in a drill to make his swing feel more connected.

Three years ago, it might have felt like a bowling ball.

When Kaymer reigned as world No. 1 for eight weeks in 2011, he wasn’t prepared for the weight of the ranking.

It overwhelmed him.

He suddenly felt disconnected to his game. That’s mostly because he felt so unworthy of the top ranking, so uncomfortable with it around his neck. With a stock fade, Kaymer didn’t believe he was versatile enough to be considered the game’s best player. There were other issues, too. There were expectations that seemed impossible to meet.

“I didn't feel like the best player in the world, even though I was up there,” Kaymer said.

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With a 3-under-par 69 Friday at The Players Championship, Kaymer’s name looms above everyone else’s again. At 12 under, overall, he leads the PGA Tour’s flagship event with the kind of form that rekindles memories of just how formidable he was winning a major championship and gaining that No. 1 world ranking.

With this run, however, a return to No. 1 is the furthest thing from Kaymer’s mind.

“The goal is not really to become No. 1 in the world again,” Kaymer said. “That is three, four, five steps more than you should go. I take it step by step.”

What is the next step for Kaymer?

“Try to win a golf tournament first,” Kaymer said. “I had a lot of good finishes. The way I played golf, I was very happy the last four or five weeks, especially, so the next step is just getting in contention, hopefully winning.”

Kaymer, 29, is looking for his first victory since 2012 Nedbank Challenge. The 2010 PGA champion is No. 61 in the world today.

“A lot of people think it's a good feel to be No. 1 in the world,” Kaymer said. “It makes you very proud. It’s nice to be up there, but it comes with a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations, from others, and, subconsciously, from yourself.

“So you need to find a way to manage that. You need to find your own way. Nobody can teach you that.”

Tiger Woods, of course, set such an impossible standard as No. 1. For Kaymer, there could be no escaping Woods’ presence, his record reign as No. 1. Who could measure up to all that Woods brought as the game’s best player?

Lee Westwood, Kaymer and Luke Donald almost felt like caretakers as successors to Woods’ abdication of the No. 1 ranking late in 2010.

“I learned quite a bit through that,” Kaymer said. “But it's always very difficult when people expect you to do very, very well every week, and you can't do very well every week. You can't win every week.  As long as you know that, and don't try to please everyone, it's a lot easier to manage.”

So that’s what Kaymer’s doing this week. He’s managing expectations as much as he’s managing his game.

“I think, playing‑wise, there are a few players out here who can be No. 1 in the world,” Kaymer said. “But what I said earlier, it's very tough what comes with it. This week, there are four guys who can become the No. 1 in the world, and if you want to, or not, you think about it. At the end of the day, you only distract yourself, so you need to find a way that it doesn't affect you in the negative way.”

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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.