Martin Kaymer hasn't won since the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, and while he thought he was playing decent coming into the PGA Championship, he knew decent wouldn't cut it at a major championship.
So for his final piece of preparation, he watched highlights of his last major win on Wednesday night.
It seemed to have worked.
“That video from last night of me winning the U.S. Open, that helped me to believe that my putting was good enough, that my ball-striking was good enough. Even though it’s a few years back, it’s always nice to remember those moments and feel the same that you felt that day.”
He found the video on YouTube, just under two hours of him playing the back nine in his eight-shot victory.
“There’s not much to do right now other than hanging out in your hotel room by yourself,” he said.
He had seen the video briefly while golf was shut down for three months during the pandemic. He also watched the conclusion of the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which he won in a playoff against Bubba Watson.
How long he can keep these good vibes is the question.
Kaymer explained his drought on not playing well enough, not feeling motivatated and his priorities not what they used to be. But he was eager to resume playing after the pandemic, particularly because Germany only allowed golf a few months ago. He got a bonus when the White House lifted the 14-day quarantine for international travelers if they were athletes, so he played the Barracuda Championship. He missed the cut, but it was competition he needed.
“Coming out here, it’s a huge motivation again, seeing the guys, the way they play golf,” he said. “The type of golf has changed so much, and it takes a little bit of time to get used to that and getting into a similar groove without losing your own game, and that is something that takes a little bit of adjustment.”
One of the few people wandering outside the ropes Thursday to watch the action kept to himself, his mask obscuring his identity. It was PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, who rarely has time to get a look at the product -- in this case, his players.
What had he seen?
“We have a lot of good players out here,” Monahan said, smiling at his understatement.
What did he feel? Well, that’s different.
Turns out Monahan, with a deep history in golf, experienced a first at Harding Park. He was hit by an errant tee shot by Matt Fitzpatrick.
“One hop off the shoulder,” he said.
Zach Johnson is one of three players who have played at every big event at Harding Park since it was refurbished.
He was in his second year on the PGA Tour when he tied for 43rd in the American Express Championship, which Tiger Woods won in a playoff. He went 2-3, losing to Tim Clark in singles, at the 2009 Presidents Cup that the United States won. He went 2-1 in his matches at the Cadillac Match Play in 2015, but failed to advance to single elimination when Branden Grace won the group in a playoff.
And now he’s at the PGA Championship, with no complaints about the start. Johnson opened with a 66.
Johnson played nine holes Monday in warm weather and thought he could handle the course. And then on Tuesday, when the chill and the fog and the wind took over, he thought it was one of the hardest golf courses he had ever played.
“But it was gettable today,” he said. “With minimal winds and obviously decent temperatures, this is what I remember this course playing the three other times I competed here. It’s a little longer, but this is how I remember it.”
Tiger Woods opened with a 2-under 68, which is worth noting because of his history in the majors. He has won 15 of them, more than anyone but Jack Nicklaus.
But rarely does Woods get off to great starts. He has three wire-to-wire wins — at the 2000 U.S. Open and 2002 U.S. Open, and the 2005 British Open — and only once has he rallied in the final round to win (2019 Masters).
Of his 15 majors, he started with a round in the 60s seven times. In his five Masters victories, he has never started with a round lower than 70.
Some context is required, but his 68 was his lowest start in a major since the 2012 British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and his lowest in the PGA Championship since a 67 at Hazeltine in 2009.
Of course, Woods was coping with injuries in 2011, and his series of back surgeries began in 2014. He missed 10 majors from 2014 through 2017. Still, it was a solid start for someone playing for only the second time in six months.
“I made some good putts,” he said. “For the most part of the day, I missed the ball on the correct sides. This golf course, you have to hit the ball in the fairway. ... I felt like I did a decent job of doing that, and the golf course is only going to get more difficult as the week goes on.”
SANITIZERS ON DISPLAY
The PGA Championship features hand sanitizers on every tee box.
But is anyone using them? Not Shane Lowry.
“Personally, I wouldn't feel that comfortable sanitizing my hand before I put my hands on my grip,” Lowry said with a grin. “So no, I certainly didn’t use it.”
He wasn't alone. Lowry says they mostly are there for workers filling coolers with water, or caddies opening the lids. But it's not like he was paying attention.
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