Martin Kaymer, reigning champion at the PGA Championship, has visited the summit of the world golf rankings.
Kaymer, 26, spent eight weeks at No. 1 earlier this season before dropping back to No. 3, his current perch heading into Thursday's opening round of his title defense at Atlanta Athletic Club.
A dominant player on the European Tour, the native of Dusseldorf, Germany, is not a member of the PGA Tour and rarely competes in the U.S. outside of major championships and WGC events. But he's an emerging celebrity in his home country, where Kaymer draws paparazzi photographers and receives unsolicited invitations to dine or play golf with other elite athletes.
"A lot of soccer players ... big, national players, those are my role models. They call me and want to have dinner with me," said Kaymer, who earned his 2010 PGA title by defeating Bubba Watson in a playoff at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis. "Everything started with the PGA Championship. And then in March, when I became the No. 1 player in the world, that has been a huge impact on Germany."
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Kaymer said he does not feel pressure following in the footsteps of Bernhard Langer, a two-time Masters champion from his home country who remains the gold standard for German golf. But he does enjoy sending this message:
"There's not only one German who can play golf," Kaymer said. "There's a younger one, too, who can hit the ball."
Following a breakthrough 2010 season in which he won his first major and helped Europe claim the 2010 Ryder Cup, Kaymer has not placed higher than 12th in any major this season. He posted that finish at last month's British Open, calling it a signal that his game is headed in the right direction heading into this week's PGA title defense.
Following is a look at Kaymer in his own words:
On the most important byproduct of winning last year's PGA: The confidence that you gain from winning a major, I never had that before, even when I played well. When you win a major, that is world class. There is no one who beat you in one of the biggest tournaments you play all year... and that gives you so much satisfaction. That is the payback for all the years of hard work.
On being a celebrity in Germany: People follow you home and take pictures of your house or your car or of your friends. They call friends to get information about you. I need to get used to it. You read about those things... but you don't think it will happen to you.
On what the 2010 season meant to him: It was a spectacular year for me, very unexpected. I was not really thinking [about] winning majors already. But I did. I became the No. 1 [money winner] in Europe. We won the Ryder Cup. Those were all career goals, and I achieved all those goals at the age of 25.
On future goals: My biggest goal is to win the British Open one day. That is the only major we have in Europe, and I would love to win it, preferably in St. Andrews. Then, obviously, the Hall of Fame is a big thing. It will probably take me a few years and a few more wins and a few more majors to get there. Those things are life goals. But last year, I think, was a good first step.
On the difference in Atlanta Athletic Club and last year's PGA venue, Whistling Straits: It's very different. I think Whistling Straits was a British Open golf course with good weather. You have to hit fairways [at AAC].
On future plans to join the PGA Tour: For sure. I can't tell when it's going to be. At the moment, I like my position that I can play a little bit in Europe, a little bit in America. I play all the tournaments I want to play. I don't need to join the PGA Tour [today].... If you play too many tournaments, I don't think that you can enjoy every tournament you play.
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Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760