Kaymer let his game own the moment

Jun. 16, 2014 @ 01:04 AM

His putter dropped milliseconds before the ball and he leaned forward a bit, appearing a little overwhelmed. Normal reaction from a guy who doesn’t show too much emotion. There didn’t need to be.

When Martin Kaymer made his 14-foot putt on the 72nd green of the U.S. Open, there was no drama, no “if I don’t make this I lose.” The win was long ago assured. There was no need on the final day to be risky, hit a bunch of fantastic shots. He just had to keep playing like he did every other day.

And he did, earning his second career major championship in the process, following up from the 2010 PGA Championship. He’s not a one-hit wonder anymore, and with that he’s quite pleased.

“You want to win majors in your career, but if you can win one more, it means so much more,” he said. “Some people called me the one-hit wonder and those things. So it’s quite nice proof, even though I don’t feel like I need to prove a lot to people, but somehow it’s quite satisfying to have two under your belt. And I’m only 29 years old, so I hope I have another few years ahead of me.

Kaymer didn’t just win the U.S. Open, he dominated it. Apart from his eight-stroke victory, he led the field in birdies (16) and was third in putts (110, 27.5 per round), solo seventh in driving average (305.5 yards per drive) and tied for ninth in fairways hit (43, 10.8 per round).

He credited his iron play as the best part of his game this week.

“I didn’t hit many bad iron shots,” he said. “Of course, you hit a couple off line here and there, but I didn’t make many mistakes with the irons.”

But more importantly than just hitting the ball well, he managed to keep his emotions in check and have the right attitude throughout. Even on the last day, when the pressure could have gotten to him, could have thrown him off his game. Not this week.

Even his reaction to winning, his approach to handling the media. It was all a different story than back in 2010. He was relaxed, engaging, even funny at times in his post-round press conference Sunday night. Three examples, all that elicited laughter in the interview room.

On the U.S. soccer team, who will face his native Germany in the group stage of the World Cup: “You have two Germans on your team, you have a German coach (Jurgen Klinnsman), and he has been very successful with our team in 2006. So I think you are a little bit the underdog, you’re not as bad as people make you.”

On practicing Sunday beside LPGA players, who will play their U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 starting Thursday: “I did like it. Some of them are very pretty. I’m sure a lot of guys out here enjoyed the view as much as we did.”

On being more honest and open in press conferences: “I want to explain (so) that you understand. Otherwise people write something which is not true. And I’d rather take a minute longer to explain it properly what I mean than if you make something up. I want to be in control here.”

It was quite a change from the way he handled all the attention he received after winning the PGA in 2010.

“Four years ago, I didn’t know what’s happening,” he said. “I was not expecting myself to win a major at 25. It was too much. It was very difficult to handle everything and to play good golf.”

But now, he spoke about being relaxed when talking with reporters, not having to say something “special” or “interesting,” but just having a normal conversation. Just being a normal guy who just happens to win major championships, this one in spectacular fashion.

On Sunday before his round, he had a conversation with his brother and his manager in the players lounge at Pinehurst about playing defensive or just playing like he’d been playing, continuing to press forward, dealing with the pressure.

“It’s very easy,” his brother said to him. “I don’t need to tell you anything more, you know it all. You just have to let it happen.”

It happened, and Martin Kaymer is the 2014 U.S. Open champion.