Martin Kaymer is relishing defending his title at the US PGA Championship next week, but is expecting a very different test from the one he conquered at Whistling Straits a year ago.
The German clinched his maiden Major Championship after seeing off American Bubba Watson in a three-hole play-off, which was just one element of a magnificent season that culminated in him being crowned Europe’s Number One with four victories, as well as a Ryder Cup win having been part of Colin Montgomerie’s triumphant European Team at The Celtic Manor Resort.
The lush fairways of Atlanta Athletic Club, however, are in stark contrast to the bunker-strewn Whistling Straits, and Kaymer, speaking at a media day in June, said: “It's a different golf course, completely different. The fairways here (at Atlanta) are fantastic and the rough will be thick, but I think you will be rewarded.
“It’s long and you have to be precise because it will be a very difficult challenge. It’s going to be very hot, that’s for sure. It’s about ball-striking here; it’s not just a putting competition. It’ll be a tough tournament. I’m looking forward to going there and defending my title.”
As his first year as a Major Champion draws to a close, Kaymer reflected on his victory 12 months ago, adding: “That win, hopefully one of many, not only changed my year but changed my life. To win a Major, especially on a different continent, was huge and it’s changed my life and my family’s life – but all in a very positive way.
“In general 2010 was a spectacular year for me, very unexpected. Of course I was thinking that I could do well, that I could win golf tournaments, but I was not really thinking about winning Majors already.
“I thought it would take some time and some Major Championships to finally win one. I thought I might have to put myself in contention lots of times and get used to that feeling to win one of the biggest tournaments. So last year, when I went into the final round I was not really thinking about winning to be honest because Nick Watney was up there and so were a few other guys.
“It was very surprising to see Nick Watney making some mistakes at the beginning of the round, and all of a sudden I made some birdies, and I was up there. I said to my caddie that it doesn't really matter what happens. It's the first time I am leading a Major Championship, so let's try to make the best out of it.
“So a lot of what happened last year was very unexpected. I became the Number One in Europe, won a Major and played and won The Ryder Cup in Europe. They were all career goals, and I achieved all those goals by the age of 25.”
The 26 year old credits Padraig Harrington with setting the ball rolling for the recent success for European Tour players, with Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke all claiming their first Major title in the last 14 months.
“I think everything started when Padraig Harrington won The Open twice and then won in America (at the 2008 US PGA Championship),” he said. “He started us believing that we can win even the big tournaments in America, and they are not just won by Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
“That was the start for us to trust in ourselves and to believe in our abilities. So we will see what's going to happen in the next few Majors in the next few years. America has got a lot of great young players now - obviously Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney, Anthony Kim and Rickie Fowler - so it's nice for me because I know I'm going to play against those guys for the next ten to 15 years. It's very exciting.”