By Sarah Gwynn, europeantour.com
Martin Kaymer declared after his victory in the US Open Championship that he was not a robot, but the ruthless efficiency with which he closed out his second Major title may raise doubts.
The German cruised to an eight-stroke win over Pinehurst’s notoriously tough No. 2 course with a one under par 69 – his third sub-70 score of the week – never giving his rivals a sniff after starting the day with a five-shot cushion.
Afterwards he said he had been bracing himself for the toughest round of his life – this coming from a player who has won Ryder Cups and some of the game’s most lucrative events – but that on the back nine he allowed himself to relax a little.
“We are humans, not robots,” said the 29 year old, who also had to deal with the partisan American crowd vociferously supporting his playing partner, Rickie Fowler. “The challenge was not to think too much about that trophy, not to think too much about sitting here now, about what you're going to say. Not too much thinking about how you might celebrate on 18.
“It goes through your head, and I'm sure a lot of players feel the same way. Not many talk about it, but we do think about it.
“I said to Craig, my caddie, this morning that this will be very, very difficult, probably the toughest round we ever played because of all the emotions and expectations.”
Expectations are something Kaymer has come to set very high, given that he has succeeded at every level with quiet efficiency and minimum fuss. The player who once carded a 59 in an EPD Tour event made light work of his Challenge Tour career, securing his promotion via the Rankings in 2006 from just eight events.
From those, he won two – the first on his professional debut – and finished in the top four another four times.Having comfortably kept his card the following season as a rookie on The European Tour, finishing 41st in the Order of Merit, Kaymer won at least one title a year for the next four campaigns.
In 2010 he was unstoppable, tasting victory four times en route to being crowned European Number One. It was breath-taking golf. His Major breakthrough arrived at the US PGA Championship in August, where he dispatched American Bubba Watson in a play-off at Whistling Straits, and he rode that wave of success all the way to Celtic Manor six weeks later to make his Ryder Cup debut.
He won two and a half points from four as Europe held on for a narrow victory, but it was two years later, at Medinah, that the likeable Düsseldorf native secured his status as a Ryder Cup hero.
Having been, by his own admission, on poor form heading into the contest, even saying he felt he let Justin Rose down in the first-day fourball defeat to Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar, Kaymer came good in the singles.
Facing the vastly experienced Steve Stricker in the penultimate match, Kaymer took the duel to the last hole and had a six-foot par putt to retain the trophy for Europe. It is hard to imagine a situation with more pressure, but with nerves of steel, he calmly rolled in the putt to spark wild celebrations.
Kaymer’s decision to adjust his swing in 2011, despite the fact he reached World Number One in February that year, has been well documented and it is arguably the main reason for his fall down the Official World Golf Ranking to as low as 63rd in April this year.
He bristled at the mention of the word ‘slump’ after his first round at Pinehurst, however, insisting that it was merely a period of tweaking his technique in order to achieve such results as his victory in the Players Championship at Sawgrass last month.
There, too, he showed nerves of steel to close out the wire-to-wire win, holing a 30-foot par putt on the iconic par three 17th en route to a one-stroke triumph.
His fellow German Marcel Siem affirmed: “I’ve never seen him swing it better and hit it better than he did this week. It’s the best I’ve ever seen him play, better than when he got to World Number One.”
With a new-found confidence that when the pressure is on he can remain in complete control, perhaps it will not be too long before we see Kaymer return to the top of the World Ranking.