NORTON, Mass. – To get to another level in his pro career, Martin Kaymer has had to turn back the clock.
All the way to 2007.
“That’s the last time I felt like this, when I was trying to get my (European) Tour card,” Kaymer said.
He had just finished four rounds at The Barclays. While a share of 50th place might not sound like much, to Kaymer it was measured success. He had moved inside the top 100 in the FedEx Cup standings – meaning he was going on for at least one more week, to the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Still, the wait-and-see and crunch-the-number games wear on you. Kaymer, 28, shook his head. On the European Tour, “I was qualified for everything, but now, I’m fighting to get in. It’s difficult to keep putting pressure on yourself; you get tight.”
Hard to believe, given that Kaymer is a major championship winner (2010 PGA) and owner of 10 international victories. Good gracious, he stood over a Ryder Cup-clinching putt last fall and delivered it center-cut. Indeed, look at T-50 if you like, or maybe at 90th, which is where he stands in FedEx Cup points. But a better indicator of the talent that percolates within is No. 1, which is where Kaymer stood in the Official World Golf Championships in the spring of 2011.
Factor all that in and ask yourself how such a talent could be placing so much pressure on himself this year.
The answer rests in his decision to join the PGA Tour for the first time. In previous years, Kaymer built his schedule around the European Tour, visited America for the majors and the WGCs and spent only small stretches at a time here. But committed to playing against the best – “The best players in the world, they come here,” he said – Kaymer in 2013 has given himself a lengthy stay in the U.S. to firm up his status.
It hasn’t been easy on a personal level. “It was a tough season so far for me,” he said. “I’ve been in America a long, long time, the longest ever.”
Nor has it been easy golf-wise, though not because of spotty play. On the contrary, Kaymer has made the cut in all four majors and 13 of his 16 PGA Tour events, and three times he’s finished top 10.
“I’ve played really, really good golf. I should be in the position I’m in right now, fighting to get to Boston.”
Kaymer said he will adjust things next year, that “I want to be home,” and he’ll work his schedule differently. He concedes he might not have totally grasped the FedEx Cup points, that he probably could have played a few more tournaments. Also, the line between good and very good on the PGA Tour is thinner than a lie on an Open Championship links, something Kaymer is coming to understand.
“It’s really frustrating if you can’t post a score like you feel like (you deserve), 3 or 4 under, but then stuff happens and you get really unlucky. But I’m not stressing.”
Early during his third round at The Barclays, Kaymer was stuck in reverse, 6 over after five holes and his hopes for being top 100 were disappearing. But he played his next 31 holes in 1 under and moved from 103rd to 90th, one of five who played their way into the Deutsche Bank Championship.
New to FedEx Cup playoffs that he may be, Kaymer recognizes the significance of advancing. It is August. It is too early for his season to be over.
“I’m very happy. I just want to keep playing now. You don’t want to stop,” said Kaymer. “It would have been hard if I had not made it into this week, because the way I’m playing golf, I feel I’m very, very close to winning. That’s the way I feel. My game is there.”