PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – There was the “lost year,” the transition year and it seems we have arrived at the payoff point for Martin Kaymer.
On Thursday, he added a course-record, front-nine 29, a course-record tying 63 and a two-stroke lead over Russell Henley at The Players to the equation all thanks to a concerted effort to not think.
“Too much thinking is crap,” he said.
Thinking, he said, became the root of his problem after he’d climbed to No. 1 in the World Golf Ranking in 2011. It was at that point the German decided he wanted to expand his competitive portfolio, specifically he wanted to be able to work the ball from right to left after playing a fade his entire career.
He then plunged to 63rd in the world.
“The first year (2012) I wasted a little bit I would say because I was distracted by too much that was going on off the golf course, with being No. 1 in the world and all those things,” Kaymer said. “Then the last 12 months, the second year, I was working very, very hard to get back, and then it took me maybe another six to eight months after that to stop thinking.”
Funny, because that’s exactly what he pulled off on a breezy Thursday at the PGA Tour’s flagship event.
Kaymer birdied his final four holes on his closing loop, Nos. 6-9, didn’t make a bogey and missed just one green in regulation (No. 13).
The change that culminated in Thursday’s record round began this off-season when he and longtime swing coach Gunter Kessler spent two weeks together back home in Phoenix. After two years of overthinking, Kaymer went back to what propelled him to the top of the World Golf Ranking – the fade.
“It’s the fade, it’s my shot. Just accept it,” he said.
Although it may sound simple enough, shutting off what is admittedly an overactive thought process wasn’t easy. Not for Kaymer, who considers himself a quintessential German.
“It’s because where I am from, Germany. We’re always looking for perfection,” Kaymer said.
Kaymer began the season with his first top-10 finish in three months at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China (T-8). He's missed just two cuts in nine events this season and finished tied for 18th last week at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Of all of Kaymer’s 63 shots on Thursday, perhaps the most impressive was his drive at the par-5 second hole, a towering draw that travelled 279 yards into the middle of the fairway and set up a two-putt birdie.
“I stood on the tee box and the wind is into off the left, and you need to draw the ball, so it's shocking,” said Kaymer, who capitalized on his stellar ballstriking round with 27 putts. “It's shocking, but I just told myself, you've done it many times before in Augusta. You need to draw certain shots. You have to. That's being brave.“
For Kaymer, that’s being mindless. Golf without thinking, go figure.