Kaymer ready for challenge of defending PGA title

Defending champion r of Germany tees off Thursday at the 93rd PGA Championship trying to match Tiger Woods as the only back-to-back champion in the event since 1937.

Updated: August 09, 2011 11:10 IST
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Atlanta: Defending champion Martin Kaymer of Germany tees off Thursday at the 93rd PGA Championship trying to match Tiger Woods as the only back-to-back champion in the event since 1937.

Kaymer claimed last year's title on a British Open-style course in Whistling Straits, but faces the challenge of repeating on the long layout, dense rough and sweltering heat of Atlanta Athletic Club.

"It's a big week for me to defend my first major," Kaymer said. "It will be interesting. It's a very difficult course, very long and very tight."

Kaymer, who won his only title of the year in January at Abu Dhabi, will try to match a feat twice achieved by Woods, who completed back-to-back title runs in 1999-2000 and 2006-2007.

No one else has done it since Denny Shute in 1937 when the event used a match-play format.

"I think that there won't be a lot of low scores," said Kaymer, who predicted a winner in "single digits" below par on a course lengthened and revamped since David Toms won the 2001 PGA title here at 15-under par 265.

"I can see why David Toms won here, for example," said Kaymer. "He's not one of the longest hitters on tour, but he's very straight. However, I don't see a guy winning here with 15-, 16- or 18-under par. I struggle to see that."

Kaymer likes how he is playing at the moment, but is uncertain about pulling off another major triumph in a world-class field.

"I'm feeling OK about my game. It can become really good all of a sudden or it can be OK, but it's not going to be really bad," he said. "I'm on a very good way to win again, I just need to be patient. I'm not playing worse or better than last year."

Kaymer said last year's title has changed his life, making him a celebrity in his homeland. German footballers are calling him to ask golf adivce or even just for the chance to meet the man who has given golf in Germany new life.

"It was more like an elite sport for old people, retired people who just want to walk four, five hours somewhere on some nice grass. But that has changed a lot," Kaymer said.

"I'm trying to tell the people in Germany that it teaches you a lot of values in life. Golf became so much more modern through Tiger Woods, as well. It's exciting to watch, to see him playing. I think the German population understands that now."

Kaymer has a role model to look at when it comes to his sporting breakthrough and German culture -- retired tennis star Boris Becker.

"A lot of people ask me if I feel the pressure of being the golf star there, like what Boris Becker was in tennis a few years ago, and I'm OK with that," Kaymer said.

"I'm just trying to bring golf closer to the German culture or to the German people because it is a great sport and it teaches you a lot of values in life... I think it can help a lot of teenagers in Germany as well."

One thing golf has given Kaymer is a confidence he never knew he lacked.

"The confidence that you gain from winning a major, I never had that before, even when I played well," he said. "When you win a major, that is world class. That gives you so much confidence and so much satisfaction.

"You put into all the years for how much work you put into it, and you sacrifice a lot of things. That is the payback."

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