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Kaymer relishing top spot

'Living Golf' host Shane O'Donoghue talks to world number one Martin Kaymer.

SD: Martin welcome to living golf. Fantastic to have you on the show and congratulations on the current world number one. How does it sit with you now?

MK: it’s a very proud felling on one hand it makes me very happy to achieve something that I never expected to… To be honest… I never thought I could become one of the best players in the world or the best player in the world, being number one in the world… so it’s a proud and happy feeling.

SD: As a junior golfer when you were starting out, at what age did you feel that perhaps golf could be in your future?

MK: when I won my first tournament out of Germany, I won the Austrian emirate championship and I could feel, I mean, I knew before that I can play good golf, I competed against a lot of good German players, won a lot of tournaments but I never won outside my country.. And in order to believe that I can be a great golfer one day I needed to win outside my country as well, against the best amateurs in the world… and that was pretty much the first tournament that I’ve won, and it gave me the belief that I can do well one day, but honestly, you don’t know…I was 15 or 16 years old and then, I think the real belief came when I played the qualifying school in 2005 and I won the first stage and then made my way all the way to the final stage.. and then I created the belief and the will that I wanted to do that every day, you know, my hobby to a job.. And I went from there.

SD:Obviously, you know, to be a successful golfer you need to dream big when it comes to those early beginnings and focusing on your talent and developing that and working with the right people. At what age were you when you started to think that golf, you know that this is something that comes very naturally to me and I enjoy the work as well?

MK: I always enjoyed to play golf, I was never that kind of person that you need to push to drive range, to go practice, I love it to go out in the morning, watch the sunrise hit some golf balls… Its doesn’t get better than that. Pretty much when I started becoming a professional or tried becoming a professional, you know when I did the qualifying school in 05/06 that was my first year as a professional on the EPD Tour,  on the Challenge tour and then I realized, you know, I loved that.. That was my passion! And then, you know, if you love something then you don’t need to force yourself to go on the driving range or to practice putting it just comes natural!

SD: You could’ve take on a variety of sports…I believe you were very good on football, you love basketball… how good were you on those sports?

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MK: Basketball I was ok I would say, you know… but football I was fairly good, I played for 13 years… I started when I was 3 years old until I was 15 or 16 and I played for decent soccer clubs. But when I was 15/16 it became too much, it was football, golf, obviously I went to school… and became a lot! And my parents just said you have to decide for something… you can’t to everything! Because I always wanted to be the best at what I do, and you cannot be the best at soccer and in golf… you have to put so much time on it and I didn’t had that time… and I decided to play golf when I was 16. I just saw a better future.

SD:I understand that your dad quite a very good footballer but he also fell in love with golf as indeed your late moment… it became a family sport… how sporty was your dad?

MK: I think my family is not the most sport family I would say, but my dad always loves sports, my brother does… so my dad he played golf, when we started he already played golf for 5 years, than he took us out to public ranges and then we just started from there… and I think for our parents it was nice… all four of us could go out and play golf so I think I have that in my blood a little bit, you that sport… to be really good in a sport for my dad.

SD: Was he a very good mentor for you in those early days as a golfer?

MK: yes… he his always my coach. At the beginning, you know, I never had a coach. He taught my brother and me like the basics things… you know, that you shouldn’t go out and hit the ball as hard as you can… when you grow up you will hit the ball longer, so don’t work on those things. He just taught us the fundamentals and I’m still looking back those days sometimes, when I have some troubles with my golf swing… sometimes I can remember something that he told me that helps me now…

SD: Like what?

MK:I mean, I have one thing that I always remember when I’m kind of little desperate and I don’t know why does it go right, why it doesn’t go left… and then I go back to the basics and he said, when I was standing at my set up I used to remember there was this little pin going through my head all the way through my body into the ground… and you just turn around that pin, and the pin should not break, if you move a little to the right, a little to the left then the pin will break. So just turn on the spot, you know, just some basic things… and that’s how my golf swing works.. I should not move too far to the right or too far to the left… and my backswing will follow through… so those are just things that I like to remember always. It gives me a little bit of a smile  

SD: To see you as world number one that must be very pleasing for your father and for your brother… they are obviously very proud of what you do… but nobody I’m sure
could have predicted that you would be the best golfer in the world someday…

MK: No, I mean, not even I was expecting to be the number one day. I knew that I could be a good golf player… I could make my life out of it, I knew that… but I think if anybody would have told me 5/6 years ago you will be number 1 one day, you will win a Major… I would say you’re crazy, you know? But obviously my dad and my brother, very proud of me… and I’m very proud of myself you know? It’s not like I’ve only achieved it! The help that I get especially from my parents and brother, I mean it doesn’t get better. I don’t think that there you will find a better support or bigger support that I achieved from them.

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SD:I have to ask you, how special was it to win a tournament with your dad?

MK: Yeah… I think the first tournament that I won where he was there was in France, I think that was the first one in 2009. My brother and my dad they were both there, and I wanted to play off against Lee Westwood and then we celebrated a little bit on the way home, we stopped at the gas station had a drink there, cuz there wasn’t really time to celebrate anywhere else…when they came on to the green and just, you know, just congratulated me and hugged me, that was pure happiness there. Everybody was asking me: what was the biggest moment of 2010? Everybody was expecting maybe the Ryder Cup or the PGA championship…but for me the best moment was, when I won the race in Dubai and walked off the 18th green and my dad was there… that was for me the best moment I had last year.

SD:A special time clearly and very special for him to be able witness what you were doing at the golf course but I believe he came as well to Arizona to celebrate your rise to the top of the world rankings.

MK: Yeah, my brother and a friend of mine they flew on Monday, that was kind of a plan trip… and then they said “we have a surprise for you tomorrow! And I said ok, whatever… we played some golf in Whisper Rock, played 18 holes and they say: ok we have to leave soon… we need to go to the airport. And I said ok… and then they say: well, there’s somebody coming. And then I figured there’s only one person or somebody who I would miss in the group here… and then my dad flew in and said: I don’t want to bother you, I don’t want to get on your nerves… I will leave tomorrow… I just want to say congratulations for becoming number one in the world. I don’t know how long you will stay number one, so that’s why I took the opportunity to come here and say personally instead of taking the phone and telling you on the phone congratulations. So then we played a round of golf the next day and then he flew back home. You know, like a 30 hours trip for 24 hours being here. That is very special and not a lot of parents do that, but that shows how strong their support is…

SD: When he says something like, you know, I’m not sure how long you are going to be number one …for you how long do you think you can sustain this performance.

MK: I really don’t know, I really don’t know how long I can become number one or stay number one…at the moment it is so tight up there… there’s Graeme McDowell, you have Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Mickelson and Tiger… so is no one really running away…so it can change every month I believe. Obviously I’m trying to do my very best to stay there as long as possible, but you know, I wasn’t the number one at one stage… I’m number one right now so, and that is important, that is very special for me… not a lot of players or athletes can say that about themselves, and that was very important for me that I am the number one at one stage. And of course I’ll work very hard on my game, even to become a better golfer, to win more golf tournaments… and we will see… if it’s enough to stay the number one, if I’m successful than that’s fantastic, if not all I can do is give 100% and try as good as I can.

SD:It sounds to me like it’s a bonus to be number one, it’s a fantastic achievement obviously, but clearly I get the impression that it’s not something that defines you and I’m curious to know what that is.. you know, what your personal feelings are about how you want to portray yourself and how you want to achieve your goals in life.

MK: I think, you know, to be the best in the sport is great… makes you obviously the best athlete in that sport, but it doesn’t necessarily make you a better person.  You know, you are great at what you do but, you know, you need to be a good person too. You need to… I think that the total happiness… the thing that you have to do in order to become really happy is if you can make other people happy! Now, you know, I’m the best golfer in the world and I’m happy about it, very satisfied, but you know… you need to do a little bit more, you need to help maybe people or give them something in order for them to achieve something in the future. That is a nice feeling and that makes you in the end of the day a good person and not only a good athlete.

SD: Is that??? Why, you’re not just focusing on junior golfers but people in general, is that where you are coming from?

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MK: Obviously is nice to see kids playing golf and getting better and getting inspired by you… there was this little guy this year in Abu Dhabi, he came up to me, I think it was a practice round or a first round in 2009 when I… no 2008 when I won my first tournament there and he said: you know, you gave me this ball a few years ago… can you give me another one from this year… these things are so nice! And it made me really happy! That’s a cool feeling and that’s why is so important to think about of those things, that just with a simple golf ball I made that kid so happy that it made his day. He can remember that three years later and that is I think.. doesn’t get better than that…

SD: Some athletes, some golfers aren’t quite as generous with juniors or just regular members of the public who attend tournaments. They get very focused in on what they are about and what they are trying to achieve. And maybe don’t see that side of things and how much good there can be in giving back. Do you agree?

MK: Well, I’m sure they don’t mean it in a bad way. Of course you need to get yourself going first, you know? The first thing is your career… if you are not good at something, then you cannot inspire people… you have to take care of yourself first in order to people to look up to you and then you can help them… they believe what you say. I know if that if I would have talked to, let’s say a hundred teenagers maybe 5 years ago, they would listen to me maybe differently today and I think that’s important that you become something for yourself first to help other people to tell them how you felt in certain situations and you should do that….. because I got inspired by Bernhard Langer, I got inspired by Ernie Els and obviously, somehow Tiger Woods as well – the way he played golf, so I think – I don’t really believe that they mean in a bad way – but first of all –your career should come first in order to help other people.

SD: What impressed you first about those people who were clearly your role models? Bernhard Langer in particular and the likes of Ernie Els? When you were a junior golfer, what did you take from them and try to develop for yourself once you got the opportunity to play amongst the biggest and the best in the world?

MK: Well definitely what Bernhard Langer did for the German golf was unbelievable. His career as a golfer you know – I’m not saying that because he’s German but he’s a role model for every golfer and Ernie Els – I just love to watch him. And still when I’m looking at tee times on Thursday – on Wednesday and I see him paired with me, I’m happy ‘cause it makes me – I think it makes me play better golf ‘cause I see his swing all the time – his practice swing, the way he walks – it is something special and it calms me down. And that’s the way I want to be as well. And I hope one day maybe there are some people out there who want to act like me on the golf course. That is just – it’s nice to see that. You know, for me, it’s great to have that role model.

SD: Bernhard Langer is very complimentary about you as a golfer and as a guy as a human being is very impressed with your work ethic and also the time that you spend seeking his advice. Clearly he’s someone  you look up to…

MK: for sure.. we’ve played together think in 2008 …. and before that I was asking about a few things, you know….Certain situations, with media as well,  a lot of things and after those two rounds, I was leading the golf tournament and in the end I luckily I could win it, but I asked him after the first two rounds  when we played together, if he had any advice.. what can I do better? What do you think that I’ve got to work on? Cuz he saw me playing a tournament, not only a practice, he saw me playing 36 holes.. he just taught me a few things that I should definitely work more on the short game and at the end of the day that makes a difference! Shaping the ball that always helps you, that gives you the confidence, if you know what you can do with the golf ball… you believe those things when somebody tells you that you have a lot of respect for… and its just nice to have somebody that I can ask and you know, even now I can always call him or text him if I need anything.. it’s just nice to have somebody on tour like that!

SD: Can we talk about your development as a professional golfer, because you have started at the very bottom, but climbed progressively and successfully to the very top in a short very space of time. How do you encapsulate that?

MK: I turned pro in 2006 and I gave myself a couple of years on the Challenge tour… And I started of on the EPD Tour, low level tour, wanted to make my way up to the Challenge tour, couple of years there, European tour, see where I can go… and I did everything in one year…  and I didn’t know that I could that… but you know, just happened… I really had that goal, that will to do it and to play on the European tour, to play with the people that I see every week on TV… I really wanted it… I think in the end of the day the most important is that you never forget your goals, where you want to be one day… and you have to put a lot of work in there, you have to sacrifice a lot as well, but it was never tough for me… I was never the kind of guy that would need to go out every Friday and Saturday. You know, it was fine for me to go to the golf course in the morning and just practice! But I was never expecting that it would go that fast

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SD: So Martin, there’s clearly a serious work ethic.. you know they talk about inspiration and perspiration, so… where do you put that? 90 % perspiration, 10 % inspiration when it comes to talent and hard work?

MK: I think it’s a mix for sure… you need to .. a lot of people have talent but you need to work on that talent…you know I said many times in the German national team you had guys that played better golf than me… they had more talent than me … but I was working harder.. you know? I was hitting maybe five or ten balls more a day. I always doing a little bit more than they did.. and I think that made the difference in the end. Of course I had talent or I have a talent.. I was trying to work on that talent, to increase it, to get better… so I think its more… the talent will get some where … but to get to the next step you need to work hard! I would say maybe, 70 to 30%… 70% is work and 30% is what you have in talent.

SD: And you see the benefits in your victories…How important was the first on the EPD tour?

MK: Yeah… My first victory on the EPD Tour.. It was… I will never forget that cuz it was my first cheque, my first money as a professional and I was so proud when I received that cheque and showed to everybody in my family and that’s what I got.. that was a fantastic moment, but for me it was very clear that is a start now and I need to do more, I wanted more..  I want to win more tournaments… and I think in the first 6 or 7 months I won 6 tournaments on the EPD tour and then I got a invitation for a Challenge tour tournament in Germany and I could win there on Challenge tour and a couple of tournaments before I play the European tour.. so.. it was a nice feeling! Everything went so quick! But I worked hard and so I kind of though that I deserved it as well!

SD: Becoming rookie of the year on the European tour that must have been special as well for you! Achieving your first victory on the fully European tour, at such a young age…

MK: 2007… I became the rookie of the year and if you see that trophy you know sometimes when I come home to Germany I have a look on that trophy and see the names on there and then.. you see my name there… feels a little bit strange, but it’s a.. I mean what a proud feeling. 2008 I could win my first tournament on the European tour at Abu Dhabi, and then won another one in Munich from them I got the motivation and belief that I could win a lot of tournaments. But obviously, if you win those awards, like the rookie of the year, it makes a difference. It gives you more motivation.

SD: Just to bring you down to earth a little a bit, the Masters –  and obviously the fact that you’ve played in it 3 times and you missed the cut 3 times, you have to explain what’s happened there and what have you deciphered from your analysis of the performances at the Masters..

MK: every year I came.. I played the Masters.. when I came to the Masters  I never played the best golf, you know, I was never on my peak performance and the biggest problem I had, I struggled with the short game. I think it was always my worst time of the year, between March and May…always around the Masters time, I don’t know why but it just didn’t work and this year I changed it up a little bit, I’m not playing the week before like I did the last three years… I’m giving myself more time off, to prepare a little bit different…I don’t know how it’s going to work this year…but hopefully I can play on Saturday and Sunday.

SD: Do you think that perhaps people place too much emphasis on the Masters. Given the schedule that you have, the fact that you are number one, you are playing in every tournament that you wish to play, do people place too much importance on an event like the Masters? Do they get carried away with it as an event?

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MK: Yes, no doubt! It is a big tournament! We have four big tournaments every year… the four Majors and probably, you know, media wise, the Masters is the biggest. A lot of people put so much into that week… a lot of players prepare themselves so much  for the Masters… yeah I can understand that… it is a big tournament, but you can talk too much … it is just a tournament  It’s a big one and the history of it is huge, but at the end of it it is just a tournament.  What I just said earlier, I struggled there a little bit, but I don’t talk that much into it. You know, I play good golf the last few years.. I didn’t play very well there, but you know, maybe one day it will work out and if not then that’s fine too but I think you shouldn’t talk that much to it. It’s just a privilege to be there and play there. That is great you know.. to be invited there, to walk around and be able to play.

SD: But psychologically to make the cut at the Masters, to perhaps make the top 10 and perhaps win the event, do you feel in a much stronger place now in 2011 given your status as world number one.

MK: well, obviously the world number one ranking helps, but for me it gave more motivation that I won the PGA championship.  I won big events on the European tour last year with Abu Dhabi and the Alfred Dunhill and this year in Abu Dhabi… those things they give me more belief that I can do well there.

SD: And when it comes to the Majors now for the rest of the year obviously you’ve got Royal Saint George’s for the Open championship, Congressional for the US Open and back in Atlanta  for the PGA where you will defend your title… are you going to specifically peak for those tournaments? Is that the way that you will be building your year?

MK: No not really. At the moment I… of course I would like to play well there and I would like to win there… but we have other big tournaments as well. They are important for me too! So I’m not only focusing on those four tournaments, I focus on every tournament I play. Yeah, you prepare yourself a little bit different, a little bit more short game, you may work on the draw a little bit more. When you play the British Open you should go there maybe a week before and play some links golf course to get used to them again, but I think you should not talk too much into it. You know for me, of course it’s the best to win a Major but the other tournaments are important too.. and I’m not really planning my golf season around the Majors, I just try to have a schedule that feels right for me, that  I have enough time for myself and then go from there.

SD: Very quickly, the Ryder cup. You made you debut there and must have been a fantastic experience. What was it like to be in that locker room.. that unique atmosphere?

MK: I was very happy that I could play with Lee Westwood you know, the first day… that calmed me down a little bit to play with him but I will never ever forget the feeling on the first day. I was there in 2008 in Kentucky when Nick Faldo invited me.. and even then I was nervous. I didn’t have to play but I was nervous sitting on the first tee…. but the last year in Wales that was amazing… its so difficult to describe. You get goosebumps when you are standing there and you see the people there with so much . that tournament…you know.. you have an army kind of  like pushing you to success. It was a great feeling and I hope that I can play the next let’s say 5/6/7 Ryder cups.

SD: It’s been a dramatic year and a fantastic year full of success for you over the last 12 months in winning the race to Dubai and winning your first Major and playing the Ryder cup…parallel to that, Tiger Woods has come back to the game after some dramatic incidents off the course… he’s now changing his swing again.. He’s dropping down the rankings but obviously his aspiration is to contend and win more Majors… how important is it for you as a leading player to have him at the peak of his powers and back in big time golf?

SD: I think for everybody who’s in the top 5 or top 10 in the world at the moment, you know, we will like to play against… let’s put it this way I believe Tiger is the best player that ever played that game and you would like to challenge him when he plays his best golf… the way he played in 2000… I would love to play against him. Let’s say in the shape that I’m now I would like to play against him in 2000 the way he played there. And everybody is hoping.. well I hope that he comes back where he used to be because you want to play against the best player in the world… or  who ever played the game as he performed .. That’s what you want to do.. You want to see how good am I really. And then you can go from there.. you always learn something and then try to, you know, improve something that he does better than you and then go from there.

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SD: Can you see him getting back? Contending for the top spot in world rankings and giving you a run for you money?

MK: I believe so, I definitely believe so! Because, you know, you don’t lose talent overnight, he’s an incredibly talented golfer and a lot of people give him a hard time you know? Guess he’s changing the swing…but I kinda believe that to but you have to think about as well, you know, it is so difficult for him.. you know, his private life.. it has an impact on your golf as well,.and so, he has to figure out his private life first in order to play good golf. That is what I believe in. Just give him some time..and he will be back and challenging all of us.

SD: For the first time in a long time on the European tour numbers 1 2 and 3 in the world rankings played together..  And that was at the Dubai Desert Classic early in the year back in February. What was it like for you on that first tee because it seemed very exciting. We were there obviously watching the three of you Westwood, you at number two, Tigert at number three, you know.. teeing off together. Fantastic drives down the first and different fortunes on the tournament, but describe that feeling of being in that company.

MK: Well it was the first time for me that I ever played with Tiger. I was very excited about that first of all… but for European golf it was fantastic.  I believe.. now McDowell is number 3 in the world, it’s even better for the European tour but I think it was huge for me you know? You have to realise that you are only 5 years on tour now. It’s a very nice and cool feeling to play with Tiger Woods and |Lee Westwood, you know? Its kinda like a dream, you know, to play with those players. To be in the mix and to challenge them and try and compare yourself with their game and to see how good are you and how good their game is and compare it a little bit… it’s a great challenge to what you have. And that was nice and we three could play together and just challenge each other a little bit and go.. yeah it was nice.

SD: Final question, just for those junior golfers who are clearly inspired by you now, they see you up there as number one. What do you say to those young Martin Kaymer’s who are out there in all countries.. not only Germany…

MK: I can just say those things that my dad always told me you know, and my coach as well.. that if you have talent.. what I said earlier, you have to use it, you have to work, you have to hit balls and don’t find excuses for something. Don’t explain that this and that is not happening. Find a way to make it happen and to make it work and believe in your goals and follow your goals and even thought it’s hard sometimes and it will be difficult, and yes, people aren’t believing in you maybe I had that as well, you know? Of course there were a few people that didn’t believe I would make golf as my living you know, but you have to work. That’s what I say, you have to make things happen. In order to play with golf… And that’s what I try to tell teenagers as well when they come to me for  advice.. you have to work and follow your goals.

SD: And briefly on Germany and the rising popularity in golf certainly in the last few years. It’s been at a low level for many years despite the success of Bernard Langer. What do you see as the future for golf in Germany based on his incredible dominance  now on the Champions tour and your obvious success on the main European and PGA tours?

MK: I think I have a little bit of a… I think I have a good chance to make golf popular in Germany.  I think he had it difficult, because golf was not as big in the world as it is now with Tiger and Phil. Golf became really big. Obviously I’m trying everything to make golf more popular in Germany, the Ryder cup will help there a lot in 2018, if we would get the Ryder cup that would help. So those things.. it’s nice to be able to have the chance to inspire people and maybe I could do the same as Stephie Graff, what they did many years to kind of like create that tennis boom… what they did, I will try to create that golf boom one day… it will be difficult and I hope that golf becomes bigger but we need more players on tour as well,  we have a big country, there is support from the golf federation, we just need more golfers on the tour. I think that that will help us.

SD: Well you are certainly doing a lot to help that.

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SD: Martin at the Ryder cup it was a different environment. Obviously you tasted the team atmosphere and experience …but to be in that team environment.. was it alien for you? Was that different for you? Perhaps it was one of the reasons that you didn’t play at your peak?

MK: Yeah I didn’t play good golf at all. I was expecting a lot from myself, especially after the PGA championship when I won that one.. came to the Ryder cup .. the expectations were high…I think I just put too much pressure on myself. There’s enough pressure from the Ryder cup and there’s no need to put more onr yourself. But I think that I just expecting too much… I was not loose enough.. you know… I was always a little bit too tight… always… it is a different thing and I thought that the trip on 2008 would help me enough to get over it and just play golf the way I play every other week but it was different, it was different…maybe that’s  why I didn’t play as good as I thought.

SD: It’s a nerve-wracking experience I would think…

MK: It is nerve-wracking, yes… it is but usually I can deal with it very well, but this was just.. maybe it just wasn’t my week…

SD: Just on the status of being world number one… you know, you are not long number one… what it is like for you personally now coming to terms with perhaps that added responsibility, that extra focus on you, and perhaps occasionally a bit too much intrusion.

MK: Well I mean at the moment. It’s ok.. in the moment I enjoy that…it’s totally a new position.. I don’t know how it is, you know, to be number one in the world.. Now recently, yes! You get a little bit more attention, people recognize you more often, you have to do a few more autographs and photographs here and there, but at the moment it’s not getting too much. I just see myself, you know, as a normal person. For me nothing has really changed… a lot of people they look up to me, you know, and see me as a role model and see me as reigning number one in the world. But for me, you know, I don’t change as a person. Not because of that.. I think that is what you always have to remind or remember, that.. this is not the most important thing in your life… you know.. it’s a game, it’s a sport what we do…  it’s a game that you play and you win or you lose, and then you go from there… but you should never forget it’s just a game that we play!

SD: Martin it’s fantastic having you on Living Golf. We look forward to many hot shots during the rest of the season. And the very best of luck for the remainder of 2011 and congratulations most importantly on your success so far.

MK: Thank you

‘Living Golf’ airs at the following times: Thursday 7 April at 1430 and 2030 Kenyan time; Saturday 8 April at 0930, 1800 and 0130 Kenyan time and Sunday 9 April at 0630, 1030 and 2130 Kenyan time.

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