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Golf | SA

Kaymer talks trials and tribulations



In the buildup to the SA Open former world No 1 Martin Kaymer took a few questions about what it’s like to be a golf star. The answers were surprising, as was his impression of South Africa.

“A lot of caddies and spectators want to shake your hand and welcome you to South Africa. It’s very rare. I’m surprised because it doesn’t happen very often, but it’s a good thing. They come up to and shake your hand, clap you on the shoulder and congratulate you on the last few weeks and years and for the Ryder Cup.

“It’s nice. It’s nice to get a welcome like this, but it’s different – I’ve never had that experience before. You feel a little bit more, I wouldn’t say at home, because we’re too far away from home, but a little bit more like that,” he said.

The 27-year-old from Dusseldorf, Germany, starting hitting balls at the age of 10, and by 15 played off a scratch handicap.

His rookie year on the European Tour in 2007 was something of a fairytale, and by the end of the season he had broken into the top 75 in the world ranking, overtaking his mentor and countryman Bernhard Langer in the process.

On January 20th, 2008 he lifted the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship trophy, his maiden European Tour title.

Fast forward exactly four years and Kaymer once again lifted the trophy in Abu Dhabi, this time overtaking Tiger Woods as No 2 in the world.

A week later the German finished runner-up at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, losing 3&2 to Luke Donald.

That second-place finish was enough for Kaymer to summit the world ranking at the tender age of 26. He is the third-youngest player ever to have reached world No 1. At that age it’s hard to appreciate what you’ve achieved.

“To get there is very difficult, but to stay there is more difficult, because of the circumstances around it,” said Kaymer.

“Once you are there you know you have done something very special and you are very proud of it, but to maintain that level is very difficult, because of the expectations of other people and the expectations from yourself, because apparently you are the best player in the world.

“It’s quite impressive how Rory (McIlroy) handles the whole situation at 23 years old. It takes some time to get used to the thought that you are quite a big athlete in the world, quite a big sportsman. It’s just something that you can be very, very proud of, and hopefully I will get back.”

On to 2012, and while Kaymer has no wins for the season, he’s etched a certain eight-footer at the Ryder Cup into the memories of just about every golf fan.

When asked about that moment, no doubt for the umpteenth time, he was refreshingly open about the memory, and about watching himself sink the final putt.

“Obviously it’s a great thing that I can keep that for the rest of my life. When I got to Scotland the next week so many people said that they had never seen more excitement in a sport event.

"The way everything turned out was quite exciting, and even when I watched it two weeks later, obviously I knew what was going to happen, but I was never nervous watching it, but I knew the result. I can only imagine how it was for the guys who had no idea, who were just watching it live.

“I was just looking at my reaction, you know, whether it looked retarded or not. But it was fine, it was natural, and obviously it was something I will never forget.”

But back to the present… he’s at the South African Open looking for the victory that will make his season even more memorable.

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