Kaymer Out to Defend PGA Title

Martin Kaymer had a great year in 2010. Not only did the native of Dusseldorf, Germany, win the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, defeating Bubba Watson in a three-hole playoff, but he had four wins on the European Tour.

After nailing down his third Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January 2011, Kaymer supplanted Lee Westwood as the No. 1-ranked player in golf. He became only the second German (after Bernhard Langer) to ascend to that position.

In April, he lost his No. 1 ranking to Westwood, but entering this week's PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, Kaymer is solidly in the third-place in the ranking behind Luke Donald and Westwood.

After his victory in last year's PGA Championship, Kaymer had the chance to move to the PGA Tour on a regular basis. But he still plays on both the European and PGA tours.

On Wednesday, Kaymer met with reporters and discussed his chances to retain the Wanamaker Trophy, which goes to the PGA champion. Here's what the 26-year-old had to say.

MODERATOR: Defending PGA champion, Martin Kaymer, joining us at the 93rd PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club. Martin won last year in a three-hole aggregate playoff over Bubba Watson at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin to become the first German to win the PGA Championship. Martin, welcome. What's it been like to be at a major championship as the defending champion?

MARTIN KAYMER: Yeah, obviously I've been the defending champion for a few tournaments already but never for a major. But I tell you, the nicest thing about being the defending champion this week is my parking is right next to the clubhouse. When I arrived here on Monday, it was quite convenient. But it has been a great year. And it was honestly a privilege to be the PGA champion, especially here; for me as a European, to be, yeah, the Professional Golf Association of America, to be that professional, made me proud, and I heard a lot of positive comments from the PGA of America, from Allen, the president of the PGA of America. So it was definitely a good year for me.

MODERATOR: You're the third consecutive foreign-born player to win the PGA Championship. Can you reflect on the Sunday at Whistling Straits and what it felt like to raise the Wanamaker Trophy after the playoff?

MARTIN KAYMER: Well, in the regular round, the last four or five holes, I was fairly nervous. I t was one of my -- yeah, it was pretty much the first time that I was in contention to win a Major Championship. But when I was in the playoff against Bubba, obviously there was all that drama going on with Dustin Johnson, but what I realized pretty much after we were done, or the next day, when you watch The Golf Channel, you hear all of those columns in the newspapers about that thing, what happened to Dustin. But it was a very interesting match against Bubba because I knew most likely he would make birdie on the 10th hole. He can drive it, it's a drivable par 4 for him. But for me, it was important that I make good shots on 17 and 18 to give myself chances for birdie, and fortunate, I could make birdie on 17 and a bogey on 18 was enough.

Q. You had an entire year as PGA champion and I just wondered how this victory changed your life more than other victories that you've had.

MARTIN KAYMER: It gave me -- to be a major winner, I think that gives you so much confidence and so much self-belief that you have done a lot of things right in the past. And to win a major that early in my career was obviously fantastic, that you kind of like break through a little bit of a barrier. If you win your first tournament, your first major, it's tough to win those events. But once you've won one of those, it gives you the belief that you can win any other tournament in the world. And obviously the recognition has been more and more, especially here in America.

Golf in Germany has become bigger and bigger, especially me becoming the No. 1 in the world in March. So all of those things, I think we are -- in Germany, we are on a very good way to make golf more popular, not only with Bernhard Langer, now with my person, as well. So all of those things, they created a little bit more work. I need to see myself in a different role in Germany because of this, and a little bit in the world, as well; that I am the German face of golf now and all of those things that have changed after my win in Whistling Straits.

Q. Since I just finished a lunch of food I couldn't identify, I wonder if you could tell us about your hosting last night of the Champions Dinner, what you chose to serve and why, the gift, and who spoke for and you what the whole experience was like.

MARTIN KAYMER: I must say, before I answer that question, it was a very nice evening for me. You know, to be the host of that evening with all of the past champions -- there were 17 past champions there, and the way The PGA of America run it, and to give me the opportunity to serve pretty much the typical German Christmas dinner, which was goose with red cabbage. And then on the other side -- you don't have that in America. I tried to look it up in America to find a translation, but it is called knödel in Germany and so I looked it up on Internet and it said dumpling, but it's not really dumpling, it's different; you just don't have it here. But I heard the people liked it last night.

And then I called up obviously two past champions, which was the tradition. And I called out David Toms. He's a past champion here in Atlanta Athletic Club. So he told a nice story about the way or how he won here, and that he played with Phil in the last round. It was a funny story, because David was telling about a girl who was -- yeah, the last round, 90 percent of the spectators were for Phil, a bunch, a little group of people were for David. And he said, a crazy girl, she always screamed that Phil should win. David said she was so annoying, and almost when you walked off the green to the next tee box, she was screaming at him; "Phil will get you, Phil will get you."

And he went to his caddie, and said, "Hey, next hole, you're going to take her out with the umbrella. I just don't want to see her anymore." (Laughter.) It was a very fun night. Phil was telling a story, he was my second pick, he told a story about David Toms playing The Ryder Cup with him. It's been a long story, it will probably take a while, so you should ask him when you are going to see him. So in general, it was a very nice night. I enjoyed it. And the best thing is that I'm allowed to come back every year. My gift to the men were a Swiss Army knife that I always wanted to have as a kid, but I never got one, because obviously I was too young. My parents didn't allow me to have one. So now it was a chance to get one.

And for the women, I got the nails -- kind of like a beauty case where you can make your nails and all this stuff. So I never wanted this, but I think the Swiss Army knife was quite nice. But seriously, it was a very nice night. It was cool to be there. There were only a few people in the room, and it was nice. It was a good evening.

MODERATOR: Great tradition with the PGA Champions Dinner.

Q. Towards the end of April, you announced you were making a minor swing adjustment, not really a change but an adjustment; you stayed with that. How did it work out? Can you talk a little about it?

MARTIN KAYMER: Yeah, I talked to my coach about it, and we both saw some room for improvements, so we started the process. And it's getting better, but it's been a long process. You know, it's not a complete change of my swing, but just a little thing that will take me a little bit longer than I thought. I'm not worried about it at all, but I still play okay golf. I can still play a lot better, and once it all comes together, I think I can play even better than before, even better than when I became No. 1 in the world.

Q. If I remember right, it was shortening your backswing a little?

MARTIN KAYMER: I want to go a little bit more on plane, a little bit more shallow backswing, a little bit -- shorten it. But there are a few things coming with it. If you try to shorten your swing, sometimes you forget to turn your shoulders completely, because obviously -- you know, all of those things you have to put in consideration and it will take a while to get used to it.

Q. If you can just give us your thoughts on defending your title against a pretty strong field of golfers out here.

MARTIN KAYMER: You know, last year was -- I think it's the major with the most participants in the majors, so it's tough to win this one. But the golf course is set up like any other PGA Championship or U.S. Open golf course; it's very difficult to make birdies. It's very tight, but I must say, when I played here on Monday, I was surprised how good that golf course looks like. You know, the fairways, the greens, it was just pure. There was no divot on the fairways. I think we have to thank the members of Atlanta Athletic Club, as well, that they played from mats I think last couple of weeks. The golf course is in great shape, so there are no excuses for bad scores. There's only one hole which is a little -- it's not great, I would say, that is 18. I think it would be a lot better hole if you would play it as a par-5. We have to hit a 3-wood and you still have 220, 230 yards to the green. That's the only hole, what I would say, that would be better as a par-5. But in general, you know, it's nice to tee off tomorrow at I think 1:15 and to be the defending champion.

Q. Earlier today Rory was in here talking about how he adjusted lifestyle since winning a major. How has that lifestyle adjustment been for you? Has it been easy to kind of embrace your new celebrity?

MARTIN KAYMER: It's not easy. It's just very different. You just know those things from TV, from TV shows, from movies, and obviously from the fame and from other celebrities. But I was very surprised how famous I became, especially in my country now. And it's just a thing that you need to get used to. And at the beginning, it is a lot it take in and a lot to handle. But after awhile, if you talk to people who has been in that situation before, to other celebrities or to other athletes, I think then it's a little bit easier to act in the right way. It's just a new role.

Q. Did it affect your golf at all? Did you have to work through it to get back to playing the way you wanted to play?

MARTIN KAYMER: No, I think I still had enough time to practice. I still had the same time to focus on my game so that it was just a little bit of extra energy that you need to put into that situation.

Q. I'd be curious, the degree of difficulty, how you would compare the closing stretch here, compared with Whistling Straits last year?

MARTIN KAYMER: I think this golf course, the first four holes and the last four holes, they are the key holes. They are very difficult. You are happy always if you get away with a par. Whistling Straits, the last four holes, I think they played a little bit easier because there was no water involved. There was always some -- there was always some room for misses. And here, you know, if you have -- 15 is a very long par-3. 16 is a very long par 4 uphill where you have to hit a long iron to the green. It's very difficult to stop the ball on the green it. And 17, obviously a tough par-3. And 18, one of the toughest holes on the golf course. So if I can think, I would rather play the last four holes at Whistling Straits. They were a lot more difficult here.

Q. Of the last four holes, which do you think is the most difficult par? And on 18, you said you need to hit a 3-wood off the tee. Can you talk about that?

MARTIN KAYMER: Of course you can hit driver, but the risk is very high. If you pull it a little bit, you're going to be in the water. If you push it a little bit you're in the bunker and then you have to lay up. I think on 18, if you make two pars and two bogeys, it's not a bad score at all. But I think the toughest holes on the last four, in my eyes, is on 18, because you have to hit two really good golf shots. On the par-3, you have to hit only one, and if you miss it in the bunker, there's still a good chance to make your three. 16 is a par-4, so it is still makeable to scramble around and make a par. 17 is a par-3; it's a long iron; you hit only one good golf shot. But 18, you need to be full on and you need to hit two very good golf shots in order to make par.

Q. You talked a little bit about getting adjusted to being a celebrity in your country; did you get any help with that? Did you talk to Bernhard or get advice from people who are experts in that field to get your comfort level to where you needed it to be?

MARTIN KAYMER: Well, I didn't talk to Bernhard about it because Bernhard, obviously when he was very successful when he won the majors in the '80s, golf was not as big in Germany as it is now. But I talked to a few soccer players in Germany, obviously to my media guy, he helped me a little bit because he has experience with the Klitschko brothers. So it's just a new role that I have to get used to, to be that German golf face. It is something very special is going on in Germany now. We created kind of like a golf boom in Germany kind of like what happened with Boris Becker and Steffi Graf, what they did in the past with tennis.

Hopefully I can be the golf face, where Boris Becker was the tennis face. I hope that I can do that. This is just something that I need to get used to, because it is something that I never really thought about. I was always thinking about my golf, my goals in life, and this is something which is now part of my life that I need to accept, and I'm more than happy to accept it, because I always wanted it, to make golf bigger in Germany. It's just something that will take some time.

Q. So you've embraced that concept fully and you are ready to step up?

MARTIN KAYMER: Bernhard Langer played that role in Germany, and golf became a lot more modern in the last 10 years, and I think I can handle that. I think I can make golf into a way bigger sport in Germany than it is now.

Q. You broke through and won early in Germany and you got your major last year. But I wanted you to talk more in terms of Rickie Fowler who is going through the stage of trying to win and putting himself in contention a lot and not getting it done and now he's dealing with all this pressure. As a competitor, can you empathize with that, and if you had to make some suggestions on how to deal with it, what would you say, based on having already won?

MARTIN KAYMER: Well, I think I got a little bit fortunate that I could win that early. I was only once or twice in contention for a major and I could win straightaway. But for Rickie, my advice is, he's still young, and he will win. He was close last week at the World Golf Championships event, and he is one of the best players in the world. He's up in the World Rankings without a win, which is very impressive. I think he should not put any pressure on himself. I know that the media, they can be sometimes a little bit too much, that you automatically take that pressure onto yourself.

I just think that especially, yeah, you guys, as well, should give him a little bit of time. He will win. He is one of the best players. He's still young. He was a great amateur. He's a very nice person. Obviously all we have heard and seen, a good dancer and singer. (Laughter.) I think just give him time, it will happen. I don't know if it will start out with a major, but as the same what happened with Rory. One day he will play a fantastic weekend, what Rory did in North Carolina, and then he will win. And then from there, he will win more. It's just the first time is tough to do, but I'm sure it will happen and happen this year, I believe.

Q. Could you characterize golf in Germany, how it differs from the game, popularly in the United States?

MARTIN KAYMER: I think golf in Germany is still known for old people, very elite sport, only for rich people. That is how it was seen the last 10, 15 years. But I think the last few years, golf has changed a lot. We have more golf in the schools, where you get introduced in the game of golf early. Even in some gyms, you can try golf now. I just think that golf has to be -- especially in my country, we have a lot of rules, not only on the golf course. We have a lot of rules and I think it should be possible what Alexander Noren, what he said already in his press conference after he won in Sweden; that it should be possible to go to a golf club, pay your $10 or $20, whatever, and be able to take a golf club and just hit it and just try the sport without making -- you know, you have to do all those tests in order to go on the golf course and all of the behavior. In America, it's fantastic. You just pay the money, take the golf club, get some balls and hit and see if you like it. And that is something what would be -- what would be nice to have in Europe and especially in my country, where we have a lot of rules.

Q. I wanted to ask you about the David Toms lay-up a couple of years ago and if you watched it as a kid. But as a competitor, and you've closed golf tournaments, do you feel like you have enough confidence in yourself to be able to lay-up and count on getting it up-and-down with a wedge in that situation?

MARTIN KAYMER: Well, I did last year at Whistling Straits. I knew that I could hit that mid-iron. But I think you have to -- in the end of the day, you have to believe or rely on your strengths. And he knew that his chances to make a par with a wedge is higher than maybe missing the green and trying to make the up-and-down and scramble out of the bunker or out of the rough around the green, so he knew that if he gives himself a good yardage for his wedge, he has a good chance to make a par.

I think in the end, if it comes down to winning golf tournaments, you have to think about your strengths and your weaknesses, where you can put the golf ball in order to make it easier for you mentally, and obviously then in the end, yeah, a little bit easier in general to close the deal. That is what he did. I think a lot of people probably thought he had only 200 yards, he can hit it behind the green, try to make his up-and-down. But that is not his strength. His strength was the wedge and he made it. I think that is more satisfying than scrambling out of the bunker, which is not your strength. You've already thought about that shot and thought the whole thing through, and then he made it.

Q. The Americans have not won a major since Mickelson won the Masters in 2010. Is there a discernible difference in the way Americans approach the game, play the game, versus international players, or is this just simply a case of so many good players from so many different parts of the world and America's time is coming?

MARTIN KAYMER: I just think that there are a lot of -- I wouldn't even categorize Americans and international players. I would just say, there are a lot of young players coming through now, and a lot of -- I was surprised that Darren Clarke won, for example. Obviously he's not as young as we are, but it was just nice to see that even he is able to win still golf tournaments at his age. It makes the game of golf very interesting. And the American players, why they haven't won, I mean, I don't know, and I cannot even answer why we Europeans have won that much. You know, I said it a lot of times and I think Pádraig Harrington, that he might have something to do with it when he started winning the majors. But what is really the reason why the Americans haven't won a major the last couple of years? I don't know. I mean, I really cannot answer that question.

MODERATOR: Martin, can you talk about the opportunity to play with the other two past major champions in the first two rounds and what that means to you.

MARTIN KAYMER: Yeah, I've never played with Shaun Micheel, but he came up to me yesterday before the dinner and we had a little chat and he seems very nice. Obviously I've played with Y.E. Yang a couple of times. I played against him at the Match Play this year in Spain. So it's nice to play with past champions, and hopefully there will be a lot of other people following us tomorrow.

Q. Speaking of the dinner, John Daly's jeans and jacket, was there talk about that or did you have some fun with that?

MARTIN KAYMER: Well, you look at him and smile and you know that that's just him. Why should he come in a black suit and a tie where he doesn't feel comfortable in? Everybody knows that's the way he is. I mean, it didn't disturb me, me as the host. I was fine. I was happy that he was there. And I was just very surprised, what I said earlier, how many past champions were there. Even Tiger, he came up to the range to me and said, "It was a very nice dinner." He enjoyed the goose. Like I said, it was a privilege to be there, and I was just happy that so many people were there and enjoyed the evening with me.

MODERATOR: Defending champion, Martin Kaymer, thank you very much.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.