By his own reckoning this winter’s preparations were energised by finishing the 2011 campaign with a World Golf Championship record-setting comeback at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
“To win such a big event, the HSBC in Shanghai, a World Golf Championship event with the best players in the world participating, it definitely gives you a boost. All of a sudden you want to practice even harder, you want to win more tournaments; it gives you a little bit more motivation for the next year. I can’t wait to tee it up in Arizona when we play the next one [the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship] and when we play Doral, another World Golf Championship event, and going towards the Masters,” says Kaymer, whose nine-under-par 63 was the lowest final round by a winner in the history of the WGC stroke-play events.
“Before the win in Shanghai it was not a great season, but if you win such a big event – the year before, I won a major; last year I won a World Golf Championship – in Asia. I’ve won a few tournaments in Europe already, I won a Major in America and now I’ve won in Asia: in all three continents, I’ve done something very special. The win proved myself again. It proved …that hard work will pay off. I worked really hard in the summer time and the fall; I was practising very hard on my game and I was working out really hard in the gym and I really wanted to achieve something. I was running out of tournaments, so was really happy that it still happened and for it to be such a big event. I wouldn’t say it saved my season, but it definitely made it more satisfying.”
That season certainly had not lived up to the anticipation created by the way he opened the year. Much to his own amazement, Kaymer’s winning in Abu Dhabi had lifted him above Tiger Woods in the world rankings. Reaching the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, where he lost 3 & 1 to Luke Donald, took him to the top spot for the first time. What followed – including missed cuts at the Masters Tournament and the USPGA Championship, and only five other top-ten finishes between his personal HSBC double – was, by the standards of his seemingly inexorable rise, a relative disappointment.
Kaymer has repeatedly said it was down to the unexpected aspects of topping the Official Golf World Rankings. The golf world, including many players, has talked about Kaymer altering his game with an eye on the Masters, something he emphatically denies.
“Everybody says I changed my swing for Augusta, which is not true. I’m not changing my swing for one golf course. With my golf swing I’ve become number one in the world; there’s no reason why I should change it. The only reason why I wanted to adjust my golf swing was because I saw room for improvement. That improvement, if I could get there, would help me in Augusta and maybe that’s why people might say ‘He changed his swing for Augusta’, but it’s not true,” he explains patiently.
What is true is that Kaymer did work hard last winter to try and improve his ability to shape the ball right-to-left to complement his natural fade. He views it as adding another weapon to his arsenal, but asserts that the fact that other people don’t interpret it that way doesn’t bother him.
“To be able to hit the draw – if you can add another option to your ball flight it will definitely make you into a better player. I would have more possibilities for golf shots on different golf courses – of course in Augusta – and I think that would make me more comfortable in Augusta if I could add a couple of things to my golf.
“I know what I need to do and I know what I do, and I talk to my coach about it and that is the most important thing. What people make out of it in the end is not in my hands. If people ask me, I will tell them the truth and what I feel about it; what they write and say after that is out of my hands. It doesn’t bother me and it doesn’t disturb me.”