Ryder Cup Hero Kaymer Feeling The Love

ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND | For much of last week, there was still a believe-it-or not air to Europe’s Ryder Cup win, with the feeling enhanced for those who watched what unfurled at three o’clock on Tuesday afternoon. Martin Kaymer, the man who holed that critical six-footer at Medinah, was waiting to tee off for a practice round over the Old Course with his manager, Johan Elliott. There were 30 to 40 spectators on the bank above, variously armed with autograph books and cameras and all in a high pitch of excitement. Yet, unlikely though this might sound, they were all oblivious to our German hero. Rather, their eyes were glued to the 18th green where Oscar Pistorius, on regular prosthetic legs rather than his Olympic blades, had driven all of 330 yards and was putting up from off the front apron. By the time the engaging South African runner had collected a slightly anticlimactic par and completed a couple of TV interviews, Kaymer and his manager were a distant duo heading off down the second. For Kaymer, it was a brief interlude of calm. For the rest of the week, he was fielding an endless succession of congratulatory back-slaps and questions. One of the first of the latter concerned whether he had slept at all on Sunday night. Not a wink, apparently. He had dozed off on the plane on Monday and, every time he came to, he had woken to the sensation that he was standing over that six-footer and willing it into the hole it all over again. “It was,” he said, feelingly, “such a fine line between being the hero and the biggest idiot.” Later, he would elaborate on how, away from its context, the putt had been simple. “At the end of the day, if you stick to the facts, it was the easiest putt you can have – uphill and inside right,” he said. “We have that putt millions of times. I said to myself, ‘There’s no doubt here. It’s inside right, step up and make it.’ So they were very clear thoughts.”
That the six-footer had been his to tackle is something he will always see as a gift. “It’s very, very rare that you are in a position to make such an important putt,” he marvelled. He proffered the further thought that it would not be the same if he were to have one of similar magnitude in 2014 “because I would have done it before.” Kaymer had been amazed at his emotional response to that moment of moments because he is not an emotional man. Afterwards, he had asked his brother if he had looked ridiculous and his brother had assured him that that was not the case. “He told me that even if it did look ridiculous, it was a good thing, because it comes natural. It was a true feeling.” Kaymer might never have reacted like that but for José Maria Olazábal’s wise decision to ask Thomas Björn, one of his four vice-captains, to take the player under his wing by way of helping him to blend with the rest. Björn, who has much of the sensitivity of an Olazábal, was the right man for the job. “I saw it in Wales and I saw it again here,” said Björn of Kaymer’s obvious discomfort. “The English sense of humour,” continued the Dane, “can be very difficult for the Continentals. The GB&I players are speaking very hard to each other and it’s not always easy for us to handle. I know myself how tough I found it at the start.” In a preview of what Bernhard Langer would impress on Kaymer in their chat on Saturday night, Björn had explained how Kaymer would need “to go to the other 11 guys” rather than expect them to come to him. As a Dane who has always felt sore that the Danish papers have never been around to report on his better performances, Björn also knew where Kaymer was coming from when he complained about German TV’s Ryder Cup coverage. Kaymer had described their lack of interest as the one thing to have sullied what had otherwise been the best day of his life in golf. He had gone so far as to mimic their miserably monotone commentary. “It was like, ‘Oh yeah, Kaymer’s putt has dropped in. It’s very nice, there is great celebration.’ They are just so flat and, for me, it is difficult to understand. “You try your very best, not only for yourself but for the country, for golf in Germany and then there’s so little excitement. There is something so big that is happening and in they just don’t get it.” When he arrived in St Andrews, Kaymer had found himself thinking, wistfully, of what the atmosphere would have been like in pubs such as the Dunvegan Hotel and the Jigger Inn as the Sunday singles unfurled. Then the wistfulness had given way to a feeling of warmth. Where better for him to be than at the Home of Golf, a second home where, as he said in a cheerful reference to his role at Medinah, “everybody loves me now.”

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