On the occasions that I was able to interview Martin Kaymer, I was always impressed by his thoughtfulness and his intelligence.
He was in the media center on Wednesday at the the Honda Classic, the annual milestone of the return of the PGA Tour to the East Coast. Jack Nicklaus’ work on “The Bear Trap” on the Champions Course at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, is the signature of the event, the par-3 15th, par-4 16th and par-3 17th. They all feature carries over water in the face of tucked pins and blustery winds.
Kaymer was led into a discussion about his time as the No. 1 player in the world because he was seemingly as dominant then as Rory McIroy is now in the No. 1 position. Just how hard is it to maintain that No. 1 spot?
Well, he’s playing excellent golf. I played with him in Dubai the first two rounds. There’s nothing — no weakness. The only one who can beat him, I think is himself. He can only beat himself right now.
You know, you have to give him a lot of credit, especially after the season that he had last year, to continue and play well again at the beginning of the season and how he handles everything else, you know, with his private stuff [legal issues with his former manager]. It’s very, very impressive I think.
He will grow even more as a person. I don’t really believe that he will get worse in golf. I think there’s only one way for him, which is very, very nice to see someone being that good and continuing being good.
You know, it’s very rare. We’ll see how determined he is, because in the end of the day, it’s all about his own will and his own discipline and practice, how much he puts into it, because we all know he’s good enough to win every week, to win many more majors.
In his best-selling book, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Eckhart Tolle described his descent from the unhappiness, fear and torment in his life and then up to a state of perpetual bliss. When he finally realized that his ego was generating all of this, he was able to discover that his spiritual essence was his true self and he rejected his ego’s view of the world.
When he began to view the world from his essence, all he could see was its beauty and joy. Ultimately, with this new perspective, he spent two years sitting on park benches around the city in “a state of the most intense joy.”
Later, people would occasionally come up to me and say, “I want what you have. Can you give it to me, or show me how to get it?” And I would say, “You have it already. You just can’t feel it because your mind is making too much noise.”
Soon he became a spiritual teacher.
I love that books like this have gone mainstream and that more and more people are becoming aware of their spiritual essence, that unfettered, uncluttered essence with which we all arrived. Because once you discover that — and your connection to God — you discover its power, its utility in life. Oh, to be able to walk in this world without fear and worry.
I was reminded of Tolle’s story and its lessons because of Kaymer’s explanation of how he got it together and managed to finally enjoy his station as No. 1 player in the game. He sought out a fellow No. 1 ranked athlete he chose not to name from another sport who helped him sort through all the issues:
But I believe that you can only learn by your own experience. You have to listen to yourself, and he said, “You know, it’s very rare that people are able to do that. They don’t listen enough to themselves and they always do what other people tell them to do. And then you will never get calm inside because you’re like a ping‑pong.” You know, you do this, you do that and you just function. And then all of a sudden, your career is over and you don’t really know what actually happened, so you cannot really enjoy the whole journey.
It’s very rare that people speak in these terms, but when they do, the truth of the conversation has resonance. It causes people to stop and think, to consider the totality of what that means:
And that is something that I needed to, first, reflect on, what it really means, and therefore, when I won the U.S. Open last year, was probably the most enjoyable win that I ever had, because I could really — I was really part of the win. I was part of the whole journey. I was there.
And that’s why it was such a great experience for me to be the No. 1 in the world and go through all this, and then it was a great experience for me as a person, and obviously if you are growing as a person it makes you better playing golf, too.
And I thought, Martin Kaymer no longer surprises me.