by Jeff Skinner
Martin Kaymer wasn’t supposed to be in Chicago this week. His play over the past year had left much to be desired. The former world number one had seen his game tailspin as he tried to develop a draw as opposed to his natural fade. In this year’s majors he couldn’t contend as he did when he won the 2010 PGA Championship. His finishes looked like a journeyman not a world class player: T44 at The Masters, T15 at the U.S. Open, T109 at the Open Championship and a missed cut at the PGA. He was struggling, and struggling mightily.
But at the end of his season a T5 at the BMW Italian Open gave him enough points to sneak onto the European Team as the very last and lowest qualifier. There isn’t much doubt that Captain Olazabal would have passed on him as a pick and Kaymer would have been absent from the proceedings at Medinah. But fate is a funny thing.
Olazabal only played Kaymer once before Sunday, it was his plan to get all the players on the course during the first day. Paired with Justin Rose, his game still looked weak and the Euros were defeated by Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar and Kaymer was left to be a cheerleader until Sunday.
Olazabal then front loaded his singles with all his studs who were playing well. Kaymer was sent out in the next to last group. With such a big lead by the American team it was doubtful that Kaymer’s match would mean anything. It’s funny how things work out.
Faced with a seemingly insurmountable deficit, on Saturday night, Olazabal said that he still believed. His team proved him right and with a collapse by the Americans it came down to the Kaymer-Steve Stricker match on the final hole. With Stricker in with a par Kaymer had a six foot putt to retain the cup. In the most pressure packed arena in golf Kaymer stroked the purest of putts and dealt the Americans the death blow.
Kaymer wasn’t supposed to be there and he said himself he didn’t have the right feeling towards the Ryder Cup. Then he had a conversation with Ryder Cup veteran and fellow German, Bernhard Langer who bears the scar of a missed winning putt at the 1991 Ryder Cup. “On Friday I sat down with Bernhard and talked to him a little bit about the Ryder Cup because my attitude wasn’t the right one. But now after that match today against Steve, I know how important the Ryder Cup became and is for Olazabal, and Bernhard helped me so much just to sit down with me and talk about it.”
This is a strange game, this game of golf. And strange things can happen, especially at a Ryder Cup. Kaymer goes from outcast to hero with the eyes of the world upon him. He wasn’t supposed to be the one, he was a throw away. Now, he is going home with the Ryder Cup as the hero in the greatest comeback in the modern era. Fate is a funny thing.