Martin Kaymer: The only thing that can really distract you is your mind

Martin Kaymer extended his lead by just a stroke, but he set two U.S. Open records in the process. His first-round 65 gave him a three-shot lead, but he didn’t expect to do that two days in a row. To the “Where do you go from here?” questions, he basically said that there was no way to know because the course was only going to get firmer and faster. But that’s not what happened and he shot another 65:

“Well, the rain. There was some, lots, of rain last night that made the golf course playable. Because I was expecting the golf course playing a lot firmer and obviously that rain helped a lot last night and you could still be aggressive today. We had perfect greens in the morning, but still you have to hit good shots.”

“But you know what I said, it’s very rare, obviously the record shows that it’s very rare that somebody shoots 10-under par after two rounds. And it just happened in my case now. So, yeah, but I didn’t expect it.”

That gave him a six-shot lead over Brendon Todd tying the 36-hole, U.S. Open record with Tiger and Rory. He also now holds the U.S. Open record for the lowest 36-hole score, 130.

So now, where does he go from that lofty perch? 

“Well, I think the main thing is when you lead a golf tournament, everybody has to figure it out himself, how he handles those situations. But in an ideal world, I think you just want to keep playing, because obviously if you’re leading by one round or after two or three rounds, you must play good golf.”

“So the only thing that can really distract you is your mind. Obviously you can have a day where you don’t swing it as good as the day before, everybody has that, and it’s very, very difficult to play four rounds of great golf. I’m sure there is going to be a day here and there where you struggle.”

“But then it becomes really important that you stay with it and accept a couple bogeys here and there, but that you don’t shoot yourself out of the tournament and don’t get mad at yourself and that you don’t compare.”

“The comparing is, I think, the biggest mistake you can do, especially if you’re playing — obviously, last two rounds they were great and they were very exceptional, so comparing is never really good. So it’s important that you set new goals and challenge yourself on the golf course and keep playing. Because it’s fun to play for the U.S. Open under difficult circumstances.”

Because he knew it was going to rain overnight, he thought the course would play longer because there wouldn’t be as much roll on the wet fairways. But that’s not what happened.

“But it didn’t play as long. It was very, very scorable and you need to adjust a little bit on a golf course, again that it’s very playable, that they had some holes where you could make birdie or where you should make birdie.”

“Again, you need to — you can’t really think too much ahead. There’s a lot of confidence right now, yes, but it doesn’t mean that I can go too aggressive.”

“Or why should I go out on the golf course and say maybe I can get a lead by five or six shots? I’m only pressuring myself. If I lead by four or five shots, that’s great. But I don’t want to put more pressure on myself. There’s enough pressure playing the U.S. Open and trying to finish as high as possible.”

But then when he was asked what kind of goals he would set for Saturday, it seemed that he became a little contradictory when he was talking about the dangers of “comparing” and the need to set new goals:

“Well, I don’t need to set any goals. I just wait for what the afternoon will do. If you set goals, then you’re adding a little pressure again because you try to reach them instead of going out there and being equal, being neutral, just play. So I’m not really into goals for the next two days, I just want to play.”

Perhaps he was speaking about intentions — as in a compass to guide you — rather than goal setting which is more quantitative. “I want to extend my lead by three shots,” is more pressure than thinking, “I want to play as good as I can with as few mistakes as possible.” The course may not be playing easy enough to give up a three-shot lead.

He was asked if he became a little self-conscious when he got to the double-digit lead and began thinking about it too much?

“I mean, that’s a perfect example of what I said yesterday, that people put thoughts in your head. You know, that I probably might think about where I am right now. Yes, I’m thinking about it, but it’s all positive. It’s a good thing. It doesn’t distract me. It’s nothing to do with anything.”

“I just enjoy having that chance right now. I’m healthy, I’m feeling good about my game. I’m tired, which is normal, if you come from Europe. And the heat, wearing black, it doesn’t help, but it’s all fine, yeah.”

And what did he think of the pin positions for the first two days?  Given that he was the one blowing the doors off the course, he couldn’t have thought they were as bad as his fellow competitors might have. The old joke goes, “He was playing a different golf course than we were.” But the interesting comment here is how all that changes if the greens get firm.

“Well, the first two days I think the pin positions were okay. They were not too difficult. They were not too easy. But on those greens you never have easy pin positions, really. There were a couple borderline flags today, I thought, where you had to really know that you can place the ball out there to have a realistic birdie chance. You had to be very careful that you don’t putt it off the green as well.”

“In the next two days, it really — the pin positions, when it gets firm, they don’t matter anymore. It’s all about middle of the green.”

Q. Yesterday you said that one of the keys to your success is that you stopped working on technique in March and April. I was wondering if you could explain what stopping working on technique means in your case and what that process was like.

“Well, working on my technique, I was trying to get my swing more neutral the last couple years [everything on plane so that there are no counterbalancing — and inefficient — compensations]. Finally, I think I swing it the way I want to. Not quite, but I’m getting very close.”

“Obviously, the way I play golf right now, I shouldn’t think too much about technique, I’m very happy the way I hit the ball. I can hit any shot whenever I need it. So it would only be distracting myself from focusing on the main thing if I would focus too much on the technique.”

“When I’m on the range and practice before the rounds or after the rounds, obviously you work on certain things. Every player does that. They have their three or four swing thoughts, you work on that, and that’s it. But during play, I don’t need to think much anymore, which is quite nice. And I had to do that the last couple years in order to progress.”

While Miguel Angel Jimenez may be “The Most Interesting Man in Golf,” Martin Kaymer has got to be hotly in the running for “The Most Conscious Man in Golf.”

Given what he’s said, it’s hard to imagine that he would be knocked off stride by anything that Saturday may bring. But then, it is golf.

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