Martin Kaymer earns respect - and three-shot lead at US Open
With a new status after winning the Players Championship, German can concentrate on winning more majors
Martin Kaymer was tired of seeing critics rip him as a one-win wonder who might never again play as well as he had in capturing the 2010 PGA Championship.
The 29-year-old from Dusseldorf silenced many of the comments with a victory last month at the Players Championship, his first US or European title since 2011.
And the relief that triumph brought helped him relax over a treacherous Pinehurst course on Thursday on his way to a first-round 65, five-under par, and a three-stroke lead at the 114th US Open.
Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge, Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, American Fran Quinn and South Korean-born American Kevin Na shared second on 68 with a huge pack another stroke adrift.
“It was kind of like an opening for me. It really changed things,” Kaymer said. “It’s a big, big relief that now you can start playing golf again and don’t need to think too much.
“The Players gave me a different status as a golf professional, a lot of respect from people, from the players, a lot of satisfaction for myself.”
The victory also boosted Kaymer’s confidence about adding to his major haul and he shined with birdies on three of the last five holes to distance himself from his rivals on day one.
“It’s all about the confidence. When you hit those good shots, it adds a lot of confidence,” Kaymer said.
“No one really should expect me to shoot another five-under par the next three rounds. I don’t.”
Kaymer said he had been letting the pressure of a long win drought affect him before winning the Players.
“The pressure from all the media, the social media and all that stuff, was annoying sometimes, because you can’t avoid listening to it or reading it,” Kaymer said.
“The outside, they put a lot of pressure on you. And at the end of the day, obviously it’s up to yourself, if you let it get to you or not.
“But you have to be very, very strong to really don’t care. I care about it, I read it once in a while, and therefore it was quite nice to get that out of here, the pressure and all the negativity.
“That obviously helps a lot for you as a person but more as a golf player.”
Kaymer can now go on social media without wondering if more abuse is waiting for him there.
“You read over and over again in newspapers, on Facebook, on all those golf web sites - ’Is he ever going to come back? Is he a one-hit wonder with a major win?’” Kaymer said.
“Those things, it’s not nice to read, but I can understand why people think like this. It’s quite normal. Which was just very nice for me that I knew deep inside that I never really doubted anything of what I’m doing.
“I can understand why they did, because there was not much success after I became the number one in the world, but at the same time it was quite funny, because I knew that it’s just crap.
“I’m very secure about myself. I know what I am doing. I was very fortunate to be in that position to experience that, the highs and lows. I’m sure there are going to be other lows in my career. I can accept it a lot better.”