In May, when Martin Kaymer won The PLAYERS Championship, one could have dismissed it as just a hot streak of golf kicked off by a ridiculous nine-under-par opening round. Little did we know, what we were really seeing was just a glimpse of the new and improved Kaymer, one who was about to stake his claim on yet another major championship.
So was the case this week at the 114th U.S. Open. In the days and weeks leading up to the event, all we heard was about how tough the redesigned Pinehurst No. 2 would play. After two days of wondering if the USGA had made it difficult enough, things generally worked out the way you would expect in a U.S. Open, with just three players finishing under par.
No, this was quite simply a golfing clinic put on by Kaymer, a player who once had the weight of the golfing world on his shoulders when he rose to the No. 1 ranking three years ago. He’s said that he wasn’t prepared for the pressure that title would bring, but now that he’s gone back to a sort of “square one” approach to his game, it doesn’t seem too unlikely that he could find himself there again in the not-too-distant future.
In the last seven months, Kaymer’s won two of the biggest tournaments in golf, started the season with a World Golf Championship top-ten, and had a solid showing in the BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour. He’s not just playing well, but he’s showing up when it matters the most. It’s a sign of more than a dialed-in swing; it also includes the mental fortitude to be on top and thrive with a target on his back.
Kaymer certainly understands what the pressure of being one of the game’s elite players is like, and he seems better equipped to deal with it now than we’ve seen before. It’s a crowded group at the top of the golf world, but with a big summer ahead, perhaps he’s ready to break through that ceiling once again.