MARTIN KAYMER reckons this year is crucial for him. Not only is he competing for a treasured Ryder Cup spot, he’s also aiming to become a national hero at the Olympics. The former World No.1 has made, by his own high standards, a slow start to the season although he’s now picking up the pace in a timely fashion for the 2016 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, a tournament that brings back fond memories.
In 2009, the 31 year old was in phenomenal form. He won the Scottish Open title by two strokes at Loch Lomond, just a week after winning the Open de France.
Since his victory on the Bonnie Banks he’s had an unfortunate record in the Championship. He failed to make the cut when defending his title the following year, and finished 29th in 2012.
However, there’s a lot at stake this season and the likable German is hungry to succeed and get his name carved onto the trophy once more. “Winning the Scottish Open in 2009 was definitely one of the highlights of my career, and I’d love to get my hands on the trophy again,” says Kaymer.
“The courses are fantastic, the fans are very knowledgeable and respectful, and there’s always a special atmosphere playing golf in Scotland.”
Kaymer has tasted Major success twice, with his play-off victory over Bubba Watson in the 2010 US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits and his epic eight-stroke victory in the 2014 US Open at Pinehurst.
Since then Kaymer has struggled to live up to that level. He hasn’t won a regular European Tour event for five years, but he has shown sure signs of a return to form recently. He tied sixth at the Real Club Valderrama Open de España and shared fifth place with a best of the final round 65 at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. The following week he tied seventh at the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Yet he will need to continue his momentum when he faces the challenges of the links of Castle Stuart. Fortunately, Kaymer is a huge admirer of links golf and thoroughly enjoys the vagaries of the bounce. “This tournament feels like coming home to play golf,” he added. “That is what the sport is all about. It’s very enjoyable playing on the links. You have to feel the golf course and you have to feel certain shots. It’s not just a matter of playing nice golf. It’s all about getting the job done. It’s fantastic.”
An outstanding performance in the Highlands will put Kaymer in contention for a place in Darren Clarke’s Ryder Cup squad when it’s announced in August. The last time Kaymer competed for Team Europe on American soil, he sank the unforgettable winning putt in 2012 at Medina, and he’s determined to take part at Hazeltine and add to his three victorious Ryder Cup appearances.
“When you’re competing in The Ryder Cup, somehow subconsciously, you do that little bit more,” says Kaymer. “For me, I practice a bit more and I have a little more focus on important tournaments that carry more Ryder Cup points. You certainly think about The Ryder Cup a little bit more but it shouldn’t affect you. It certainly affects me but in a very positive way. Somehow, I motivate myself that little bit more than normal in Ryder Cup years.
“All the big points are available in the Majors and the World Golf Championships. Although it’s not always the case that if you win, for example, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, that you’re guaranteed a spot in The Ryder Cup. You have to win, or be very consistent, in the big ones.”
Kaymer currently sits on the cusp of being one of the nine players automatically selected for the Team Europe squad although he would also have a good chance of being one of Clarke’s wildcard picks with his vast amount of experience and his winning mentality.
He’s leaving nothing to chance, which is why he’s set his sights on a winning performance in the 2016 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open. The tournament will play a significant part in Kaymer’s Olympic dream because it’s the last event before the golf squads are announced. Being a two-time Major winner, World No.1 for a while and a three-time Ryder Cup winner, it could be argued that he has already earned his ticket for Rio.
“Maybe If hadn’t won two Majors perhaps my opinion on rating Olympic success higher than a Major victory would be different,” he says. “I have experienced Major success and I know what that feels like – it’s probably the greatest feeling you can have in an individual sport.
“Yet there is so much more history with the Olympic Games. You fight for your country alongside other elite athletes in different sports and you only get the chance once every four years. On Tour we get four chances to win a Major every year. So if you ask me now what would I rather win – it would have to be a Gold medal.
“I did a charity tournament at the start of the year and got to play and hang out with many former Olympic athletes. Being with them, talking about the spirit and the passion of the Olympics has opened my eyes to the Games and what sport at that level is really all about.”
Kaymer will be hoping that success in Scotland will lead him to the pedestal towards a trophy-laden season where he takes both Germany and Europe to glory. n