CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – After wilting under the pressure of being the world’s top-ranked golfer earlier this year, Martin Kaymer insisted Friday he will be better prepared to handle the increased scrutiny should he ever regain top spot.
The 26-year-old German supplanted Lee Westwood at No. 1 in February, with a second-place finish in the World Match Play Championship in Arizona coming a month after a lucrative victory at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
However, the form that brought him early success in 2011 and four titles last year – including a first major at the PGA Championship – deserted him and a barren seven months has seen him drop to No. 6 in the rankings.
He has looked back to somewhere near his best at this week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland, though, shooting rounds of 68 and 67 to lie three shots off the lead at the halfway mark.
Kaymer is now thinking big again and is confident he can get back to No. 1 – and stay there.
“After five years being a professional, all of a sudden I was No. 1 in the world,” Kaymer said. “All of a sudden, you see your name up there and people approach you different. They act different around you and obviously you do a few more things besides just practicing and playing golf. And that takes some time to get used to.
“Well, now I know what’s going to happen. There’s not going to be the hype, it’s not going to be as big. Not as big as it was when I was the second German to become No. 1 and with a new golf era in Germany starting and all of those things. I think I’m better prepared this time.”
With current No. 1 Luke Donald setting a fierce pace at the top of the rankings, Kaymer won’t get there any time soon.
Donald is on top of the money lists for both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, and is a consistent top-10 finisher on both sides of the Atlantic. The Englishman took over top spot in May and is likely to stay there for the rest of the year.
“It’s very impressive because it’s not easy mentally,” Kaymer said. “I just read from Darren Clarke that it was his ultimate, winning the British Open, and … he is struggling to find new goals now. If you are No. 1 once, it doesn’t get higher, so it’s tough to continue.
“But it feels like every week he plays, he finishes in the top 10.”
The closest Kaymer has come to ending his winless streak was at the French Open in July, where he finished fourth, and the European Masters at the start of this month, where he ended up second.
Considering the way he is playing, a victory could come at the Dunhill Links, though. And if it does, he would become the first player to successfully defend the title.
After two unseasonably warm and sunny days at Kingsbarns and Carnoustie, Kaymer is praying for proper links conditions – wind and rain – to arrive for back-to-back rounds at St. Andrews to make the course more competitive.
“It hasn’t really been Scottish weather here. I would love to have a little more wind, especially the next two days, playing St. Andrews,” he said. “I know how it was at the (British) Open last year, how tough it became. But I really enjoy it when it’s really tough.
“I’m playing good golf. I just feel very comfortable.”