• Thu
  • Sep 18, 2014
  • Updated: 11:17pm
Column
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 June, 2014, 9:25pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 June, 2014, 9:25pm

Efficiency is all about results

Kaymer's US Open victory and Germany's World Cup romp past Portugal point to a nation's obsession with producing the best

BIO

Tim Noonan has been crafting uniquely provocative columns for the SCMP and SMP for more than a decade. A native of Canada, he has over 20 years’ experience in Asia and has been a regular contributor to a number of prominent publications, including Time magazine, Forbes, The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and The Independent.
 

With or without the wall, Berlin has long been an underground mecca featuring the most alternative of alternative lifestyles. And the migrant population of Hamburg, the unofficial northern capital of Germany, is roughly 30 per cent, which helps to account for the diversity both in culture and lifestyle in the region.

In the span of 24 hours, the sporting world was once again treated to a large serving of Germanic Teutonic efficiency in all its muted glory

But while there are most certainly pockets of unpredictability in modern Germany, by and large the country's hallmark is still its Teutonic efficiency. It's a dispassionate, often ruthless quest for excellence and it's a big reason why your BMW M3 goes from zero to 100 in 4.8 seconds.

The same precision that goes into supplying the world with high performance cars has also been endemic to many of the greats of German sport, most notably footballing legend Franz "Der Kaiser" Beckenbauer and peerless tennis champion Steffi Graf. There was not much that upset either in their quest for greatness and it often seemed like a joyless grind.

But there was certainly real sweat and a personal cost; it's just that both were loathe to acknowledge it. In this era of unabashed self-promotion in sports, it's a trait that seems particularly honourable and largely dated, at least until this past week.

In the span of 24 hours, the sporting world was once again treated to a large serving of Germanic Teutonic efficiency in all its muted glory. One day after Martin Kaymer systematically destroyed the US Open field with an eight-stroke victory, his soccer compatriots, led by a Thomas Mueller hat-trick, laid a similarly systematic 4-0 beating on a pretty good Portugal team at the World Cup.

Even the Germans had to be a little excited by the prodigious results. But typically indulging in understatement, Kaymer was reserved in evaluating his performance.

"I didn't make many mistakes at the start of the tournament, and that gave me a very nice cushion for the weekend," he said.

Indeed, but making mistakes is much more common than not making them in a tournament that is arguably the most punitive test in golf. Bubba Watson may be the most creative and inherently talented player in golf today. But the reigning Masters champion is also something of a fair weather flake who seems to glide effortlessly around Augusta National's pristine fairways and greens under sunny Georgia skies.

The US Open, however, is a war of attrition where things can fall apart in a hurry. It's easy to get discouraged, which helps to explain why Watson missed the cut at Pinehurst. On a US Open track you want a horse that can grind and nobody did it like Kaymer.

Usually, an under-par score puts you squarely in title contention at the US Open. But not when the guy in front of you is ahead by eight strokes.

"Martin played his own golf tournament today," said runner-up Rickie Fowler, who along with Erik Compton was one of only three players in red numbers. Ironically, for someone often described as stoic, steady and humble, it was these very qualities that saw Kaymer plunge from number one in the world to 65. It was a talk with Germany's greatest golfer and his hero, Bernhard Langer, that readjusted Kaymer's focus.

Kaymer is never going to be the life of the party and his failure to even crack a smile until the final putt was holed on the 18th was made light of by the TV crew

Langer told him to stop worrying about his game so much, to get out of his way and become a shade more convivial. But only a shade. Kaymer is never going to be the life of the party and his failure to even crack a smile until the final putt was holed on the 18th was made light of by the TV crew.

Still it's the US Open, you can't exhale until the very end and nobody knows that better than Kaymer. Mueller, who with his ongoing World Cup heroics is now the face of German football, is far more extroverted. He even occasionally indulges in the unseemly and largely un-German theatrics of diving and embellishing, a practice far more common amongst their first-round opponents Portugal.

But while Mueller is the face of German football, he is not the spirit of the team. This is still a group that never seems to beat itself and while my soccer knowledge is hardly encyclopaedic, I can rarely recall the self-implosion of a German national team. Much like a rejuvenated Kaymer, they never seem to get in their own way.

And while the new generation of German footballers features some refreshingly emotional players, come crunch time they have a bedrock of tradition to fall back on. Teutonic efficiency rebuilt the country after the second world war.

The modern incarnation of it is helping to rebuild their sporting supremacy and the world is now a witness.

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