We’ve been hearing about the next Tiger Woods for years. Or at least someone who could stand toe to toe and challenge him without faltering, as the majority of the Tour has over the past decade. First it was Sergio Garcia (broken heart maybe, but no Majors, still). Then it was Camilo Villegas, whose certainly got game, definitely has style and still has time, but doesn’t have much in the way of winning hardware. Most recently was Anthony Kim, who missed the cut this weekend and continues to play blissfully Major- free. In between were many others, all come and gone.
But I think Martin Kaymer is for real. Sure he comes from Europe, which has not exactly been the breeding ground for great careers on the Big Show, with the notable exception of Nick Faldo and moments of brilliance from Padraig Harrington. But he was European Tour Rookie of the Year in 2007, which means young, talented and sets the stage for “up and coming.” He knows how to win, with five victories last year. It doesn’t matter if you are playing Nationwide or European or Eurasian Tour, you’ve got to be able to seal the deal and win when ahead and he has done that over and over again. Unlike many PGA Championship winners, and increasingly the winners of all the Majors, who tend to be one hit wonders, he has been playing well in Majors all year, coming off two top ten finishes in the US Open and British Open, tied for third earlier in the year at the World Golf Championships, and keeps getting better, peaking at the right time.
Finally, at the end of the Major, when the money and place in golf history and his career future was on the line, he stayed icy cool while his American opponents, including Bubba Watson, yet another heralded possible Tiger challenger of recent years, made big mistakes. Call Dustin Johnson’s bunker shot what you will, it was a moment where some doubt should have arisen for him, and the tournament makes it really, really easy to dispel any doubts by providing him with a his own personal walking rule assistant just to be sure. He should have asked – you could see it was sand. Bubba on the other hand simply choked and hit it in the water, more than full club short, the kind of miss you can’t make at that level of professional golf, tournament on the line or not.
Meanwhile as their nerves got the better of them, Kaymer did the same thing over and over: made big putts and put the ball in the hole. In fact, his putt on the second playoff hole to keep his tournament chances alive seemed to be willed into the cup, and act very reminiscent of one Tiger Woods.
Finally, you’ve got to love his post-victory comments. Because he doesn’t play well on Bermuda, he wants to enter more events in Florida and figure it out. No offense to Tiger, who I like a lot, but if he was in the same situation his response would probably be to never play in Florida again. In fact, Kaymer is taking the exact opposite mentality of the modern successful golfers who play as exclusively as possible in events and on courses that suit them, a sort of cowardly approach that I give Kaymer big kudos for bucking.