BMW International Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
INCREDIBLY, it is 10 years since Martin Kaymer became the youngest and only German winner of the BMW International Open. Much has happened to him since then. He has won two majors (the US PGA and the US Open), holed the putt the ensured Europe kept the Ryder Cup during that unforgettable day at Medinah in 2012, played a key part in three European victories and spent time at the top of the world rankings.
His victory at the 2014 US Open at Pinehurst was one of the great displays of shotmaking. He left a world-class field trailing in his wake after opening with two rounds of 65, and he would go on to win by eight shots. A month earlier he had won the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. He was a colossus.
There was a spell when it looked like Kaymer would win every tournament in which he played. He appeared to be destined for greatness. Blessed with a wonderful golf swing and a glorious touch on the greens, he seemed to have it all. And the thing that made him stand out during those early years was his consistency. Week after week he would find himself in contention.
But then it all started to go wrong. That victory at Pinehurst was his last.
In 2015 he opened the Abu Dhabi Championship with rounds of 64, 67 and 65 to lead by six shots. By the time he walked onto the sixth tee he was 10 in front. But then his game fell apart and he stumbled to a 75, finishing third behind winner Gary Stal and Rory McIlroy.
Speaking after the round, Kaymer admitted that he was "in shock" at the result: "I'm surprised and shocked," the German said. "I don't really know how to put it into words. It was very, very surprising today. It will take me a few days to reflect on this. I don't think I played that badly. I started well and just hit two drives which led to two bad holes."
In August 2015, after failing to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs, Kaymer lost his PGA Tour status for the 2015–16 season. He only played in 13 events, two less than the minimum for PGA Tour membership. And ever since then he has struggled.
You don’t become a bad player overnight but Kaymer tinkered with his swing and would be the first to admit that he has lost his way during the past three years. He missed the cut at the BMW PGA championship and looks like a man who is lost. So he will be hoping that a return to the tournament that gave him his first victory on the European Tour will kick-start things for him once again.
He has now fallen to 118th in the world rankings but he is still only 33 years old and has time on his side. There would be no more popular winner.
“The BMW International Open is very close to my heart,” said Kaymer. “When I won in 2008, it was my second win on the European Tour and that was a very emotional victory for me, and it was rather special to be the first German to win the tournament.
“The atmosphere is always fantastic and very relaxed. I am looking forward to playing at the tournament’s 30th birthday. I will do everything I can to put on a show for my home fans and to repeat my success from 2008."
Another man looking for a good week is 2017 Masters champion Sergio Garcia, who seems to be suffering a hangover from his incredible exploits last year, when he not only won his first major but also secured two other victories on the European Tour, at the Dubai Desert Classic and Andalucia Masters.
He had a dreadful time during his title defence at Augusta, missing the cut after rounds of 81 and 78. Apart from that dreadful week, it is not that he has played badly. But he simply hasn’t looked like winning. Garcia remains one of the best ball strikers on the planet and a wonderful driver of the golf ball. His putting woes are well enough recorded but nobody wins the number of tournaments Garcia has if they are as bad on the greens as he is perceived to be.
And nobody, but nobody, wins The Masters unless they know what they are doing with the flat stick. It is understandable that he has, perhaps, felt a little flat in 2018. He had one of the best years of his life in 2017, on and off the course. Apart from the three victories, he got married and this year he became a father for the first time. These things require some adjustment.
For much of his career, Sergio has appeared to be a tortured soul, blaming everybody but himself when things go wrong. But he has finally grown up and is clearly a golfer who is at peace with himself. He will come good again, and he will come good again soon.
With The Open at Carnoustie just around the corner, don’t be surprised to see the Spaniard starting to produce some of his very best golf in the next few weeks. You may remember that when The Open was last played at Carnoustie, Garcia threw away a great chance of winning, losing in a playoff to Padraig Harrington. It was a loss that affected him deeply for a long time, but he had at least proved to himself that he was capable of playing well on one of the toughest links courses in the world. He is a better player now than he was then. He is also a better human being.
He will line up against a pretty strong field in Cologne, but this just might be the week when he gets his 2018 season going.
The tournament was won by Pablo Larrazabal in 2011 and 2015, by Danny Willett in 2012, by Ernie Els in 2013, by Fabrizio Zanotti in 2014, by Henrik Stenson in 2016 and by Andres Romero in 2017.
Sergio Garcia. Time to get your season going Sergio
Martin Kaymer. Looking for some inspiration
Thomas Pieters. Must turn his year around soon
Sergio Garcia. Ready to kick on
Martin Kaymer. Would be a hugely popular winner
Thomas Pieters. Has underperformed so far in 2018 but it cannot last
Thorbjorn Olesen. Already a winner this year
Bernd Wiesberger. Brillant ball striker
Tommy Fleetwood. Another week, another top 10
Matt Wallace. Has become a truly consistent performer
Eddie Pepperell. Looking to rediscover winning form
Romain Wattel. Underrated, but not by his fellow pros
Haydn Porteous. Gifted young South African
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