Four players at The PLAYERS Championship this week have a chance to become No. 1 in the world by Sunday. None of them are named Martin Kaymer, but you wouldn’t know it to look at the scorecard.
It’s been nearly four years since Kaymer won the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. At the time, he wasn’t even a full member of the PGA Tour, but his stock was on the rise. Six months later, Kaymer overtook Lee Westwood to become the No. 1 player in the world rankings. He spent two months at the top while Tiger Woods was taking time off to deal with his personal problems.
Kaymer officially joined the Tour in 2013, but even on the European Tour, his results weren’t good enough to keep him at the forefront of the game. Entering this week’s tournament, the 29-year-old Kaymer is ranked only 61st in the world, and he’s broken 70 just three times in competition since February.
Whoever showed up at TPC Sawgrass with Kaymer’s credentials sure didn’t look like that player. As a matter of fact, Kaymer looked a lot more like the top player in the world than he had since that week in Wisconsin. He handled the challenging track with surgical efficiency, tying the course record with a 9-under-par 63.
To put it in perspective, Adam Scott, playing some of the best golf of his career lately, is one of the players in the hunt for No. 1 and shot a 5-over-par 77, 14 shots behind Kaymer’s pace.
Kaymer got off to a reasonable start, playing the back nine at -2. He caught fire on the front, however, birdieing seven of his final nine holes to take the overnight lead.
There’s plenty of golf left to be played, and favorable conditions have plenty of big names close behind Kaymer. Still, he’s given himself plenty of room on a course playing much softer than usual. Kaymer hit 12 of 14 fairways on Thursday, and 17 of 18 greens. It was as close to a perfect round as there is. Certainly the course will firm up as the week goes on, but that will affect everybody, not just Kaymer.
It’s tough to say what the pressure of being at the top of the leaderboard will do, considering how long it’s been since the Kaymer has been there. Perhaps the best thing he can do is to keep thinking about what got him here. When asked how he felt his swing getting better over the last several weeks, his answer was simple.
“I stopped thinking.”
A short memory – a golfer’s best friend.