Category archive: Martin Kaymer

MARANA, Ariz. -- I had the opportunity to spend some time with Martin Kaymer last week and among the many things I asked him was this simple query: "Who is the best golfer in the world?"

His answer was both predictable and politically correct.

"I think the No. 1 in the world, Lee Westwood," he replied. "The way he's played golf over the past two years. He was so close to winning majors; the way he played TPC Sawgrass last year, he was so close. So because he's played so consistently, he's No. 1."

Considering his deference to the Official World Golf Ranking formula, I was even more interested to ask Kaymer the same question Saturday, after he reached the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. That's because no matter how he fares in Sunday's championship match against Luke Donald, when the newest ranking is formulated Monday morning, it will show Kaymer as the 14th top-ranked golfer since its inception in 1986.

So, Martin, tell us now: "Who is the best golfer in the world?"

"Still Lee Westwood," he said, then paused and added, "until Monday."

For such a stoic guy on the course, Kaymer can actually be quite an engaging personality. That response drew some laughs from the assembled media, but when pressed for an answer about the world's best golfer starting Monday, he was finally forced to put an end to the humility.

"Well, when the rankings say that I'm the No. 1, then I'm the best player in the world," he explained. "And if they say so, then that's the truth."

They will say so whether Kaymer defeats Donald in Sunday's 18-hole final or not, but the ascendancy will feel hollow and anticlimactic should the impending top-ranked player fail to clinch his sixth worldwide title since the beginning of last year.

It's a notion he is struggling with already.

"I'm in the middle of the tournament," he said. "It would be fantastic [Sunday] if I could win, then it really feels like I deserve to be the No. 1. I'm not saying that I don't deserve it, but it would make me feel better if I would win instead of finishing second [Sunday]. So, yes, it is a little strange."

Much like many observers don't often believe the Bowl Championship Series is the greatest way of determining the best college football team, there are those who believe golf's world ranking is similarly flawed. The system arranges players using a mathematical algorithm over a two-year rolling period, failing to take opinion into account.

Kaymer, though, is among those who still believes the computers get it right. And so sometime next week, after he's had a day or two to digest it, he'll finally come to the realization that he is now the best player in the world.

"Maybe on Tuesday or Wednesday, when I see my name up there," he said. "I'll definitely take a picture of that moment."

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

Editor's note: See Sobel's NCAA tournament-style bracket predictions here.

Trying to predict golf tournaments is an exercise in futility, but trying to predict the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship might be the literal definition of "inexact science."

And yet, that doesn't mean we can't employ some prior knowledge in an attempt to prognosticate what might take place this week outside Tucson, Ariz.

Let's break down the four brackets to help with those annual office pools -- for, uh, entertainment purposes only, of course.


BOBBY JONES BRACKET

Strength: Youthful exuberance. The only bracket with two teenagers (Ryo Ishikawa and Matteo Manassero) also features a half-dozen players in their twenties.

Weakness: Recent wins. Plenty of proven champions in this mix, but only one player owns a victory so far this season -- Charl Schwartzel at the Joburg Open.

Best opening-round match: There isn't a non-winner playing better on the PGA Tour than Nick Watney, who owns three top-six finishes in three starts this year, but Anthony Kim is a fiery competitor who thrives in this format.

Best potential later-round match: It would take the desert stars aligning precisely right, but if the Molinari Bros. each pull off three victories, they would face each other on Saturday morning.

Upset special: Steve Stricker is a wily veteran and one of the world's best putters. His opening-round opponent, Manassero, has nothing to lose, though -- and plenty to gain.

Retief Goosen</a>
Goosen

Sleeper: Martin Laird has proven his Scottish roots translate to great desert golf, as he's posted a win and a playoff runner-up in his past two starts at the PGA Tour's stop in Las Vegas.

Winner: Only Matt Kuchar posted more top-10 results on the PGA Tour last year than Retief Goosen, whose overall consistency failed to capture a victory. That said, consistency is rewarded in match play and the now grizzled -- and sometimes grizzly, depending on his facial hair decision -- veteran has plenty of experience in this format.


GARY PLAYER BRACKET

Strength: Ball-striking. There isn't a better collection of pure swings in any other bracket, as these guys should hit many of the course's large greens in regulation very frequently.

Weakness: Jetlag. Five of these 16 players are not regular members of the PGA Tour, which ties for the most in any bracket and means there could be plenty of redeyes going out on Wednesday -- and maybe coming home, too.

Best opening-round match: Hunter Mahan and Sean O'Hair are close friends, employ the same swing coach (Sean Foley) and often play practice rounds together. It will be interesting to see if they can get into a more competitive mode against each other for this one.

Best potential later-round match: Adam Scott was Rory McIlroy about a decade earlier. A can't-miss superstar with a billion-dollar swing, he's been very good at times and very average at others. Perhaps young McIlroy will seek tips on how to better remain on the championship path.

Upset special: In 10 career starts at this event, Jim Furyk has never advanced beyond the third round. He'll face a guy in Ryan Palmer who is already playing some strong early-season golf.

Martin Kaymer
Kaymer

Sleeper: Yuta Ikeda has now played in 13 career PGA Tour-sanctioned events and never finished better than T-22. It's only a matter of time before the 25-year-old makes a splash, though. He owns eight career international victories.

Winner: Tough road game for European Tour member Martin Kaymer, huh? Not exactly. The world's No. 2-ranked player actually lives just 75 minutes away in Scottsdale and while he won't commute during the week, he's not quite a foreigner when it comes to playing desert golf.


SAM SNEAD BRACKET

Strength: Overall talent. Top to bottom, no bracket has more raw talent than this one. Though Tiger Woods obviously skews the numbers as far as major victories, three others own such hardware and another three have already won titles this season.

Weakness: Injuries. Tim Clark has a bad toe, Camilo Villegas has a bad back and Ernie Els has a bad neck -- all of which has caused them to withdraw from tournaments in recent weeks.

Best opening-round match: There might not be a better first-day pairing on the entire sheet than Geoff Ogilvy versus Padraig Harrington. Someone should mike these guys up, too; as two of the game's more thoughtful and eloquent speakers, their conversations could be riveting.

Best potential later-round match: Chicks dig the long ball. So, too, does everyone else, which means a possible second-round matchup between Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson would be a fun "anywhere you can hit, I can hit farther" experience for all.

Upset special: Peter O'Malley. Nick O'Hern. And now ... Thomas Bjorn? Tiger Woods has been felled by unexciting, methodical plodders in the past. Coming off a recent victory in Qatar, the veteran Bjorn will hardly be in awe of his decorated opponent.

Jeff Overton
Overton

Sleeper: It's been a quiet year so far for Jason Day, but this is the type of event that has turned very good players like Ogilvy and Henrik Stenson into high-profile ones and Day's ready to make such a leap.

Winner: There aren't many more talented PGA Tour members without a win than Jeff Overton. He proved last year that he can not only hang with the world's best, but can do so in this format, playing brilliant golf at times during the Ryder Cup. Boom, baby.


BEN HOGAN BRACKET

Strength: Match play experience. Exactly half of the players in this bracket have competed in at least one of the past two editions of the Ryder Cup.

Weakness: Driving distance. In this format, it's often an advantage to hit your approach shot second and on this course booming drives have plenty of fairway to find. Only Phil Mickelson and Alvaro Quiros qualify as big hitters from this group, though.

Best opening-round match: Only one Wednesday game features a matchup of former AMPC finalists, as Ian Poulter is the defending champion and Stewart Cink was runner-up in 2008.

Best potential later-round match: Rickie Fowler has long looked up to Phil Mickelson and the veteran has taken the youngster under his wing, even pairing with him in one match during last year's Ryder Cup.

Upset special: After skipping this event last year, Mickelson decided to forgo vacation with his family and play this time around. You've got to wonder whether his heart will really be into it, though, or whether he'll have the jet gassed up and ready to join Amy and the kids as soon as possible.

Ross Fisher
Fisher

Sleeper: Anders Hansen is only two weeks removed from coming up one stroke shy of forcing a playoff with Quiros in Dubai. That result did allow him to become the last man to automatically qualify for this week's field.

Winner: Is there a more underrated player among the world's elite than Ross Fisher? He might not look pretty, but he gets the job done, including a fourth-place performance in this event two years ago and a World Match Play title later that season.


The semifinals: Fisher over Goosen and Kaymer over Overton.

The finals: Kaymer over Fisher.


Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

Editor's Note: See Sobel's NCAA Tournament-style bracket here.

Trying to predict golf tournaments is an exercise in futility, but trying to predict the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship might be the literal definition of "inexact science."

And yet, that doesn't mean we can't employ some prior knowledge in an attempt to prognosticate what might take place this week outside Tucson.

Let's break down the four brackets to help with those annual office pools -- for, uh, entertainment purposes only, of course.


XXXXXX BRACKET

Strength: Youthful exuberance. The only bracket with two teenagers (Ryo Ishikawa and Matteo Manassero) also features a half-dozen players in their twenties.

Weakness: Recent wins. Plenty of proven champions in this mix, but only one player owns a victory so far this season -- Charl Schwartzel at the Joburg Open.

Best opening-round match: There isn't a non-winner playing better on the PGA Tour than Nick Watney, who owns three top-six finishes in three starts this year, but Anthony Kim is a fiery competitor who thrives in this format.

Best potential later-round match: It would take the desert stars aligning precisely right, but if the Molinari Bros. each pull off three victories, they would face each other on Saturday morning.

Upset special: Steve Stricker is a wily veteran and one of the world's best putters. His opening-round opponent Manassero has nothing to lose, though -- and plenty to gain.

Retief Goosen
Goosen

Sleeper: Martin Laird has proven his Scottish roots translate to great desert golf, as he's posted a win and a playoff runner-up in his last two starts at the PGA Tour's stop in Las Vegas.

Winner: Only Matt Kuchar posted more top-10 results on the PGA Tour last year than Retief Goosen, whose overall consistency failed to capture a victory. That said, consistency is rewarded in match play and the now grizzled -- and sometimes grizzly, depending on his facial hair decision -- veteran has plenty of experience in this format.


XXXXX BRACKET

Strength: Ball-striking. There isn't a better collection of pure swings in any other bracket, as these guys should hit many of the course's large greens in regulation very frequently.

Weakness: Jetlag. Five of these 16 players are not regular members of the PGA Tour, which ties for the most in any bracket and means there could be plenty of redeyes going out on Wednesday -- and maybe coming home, too.

Best opening-round match: Hunter Mahan and Sean O'Hair are close friends, employ the same swing coach (Sean Foley) and often play practice rounds together. It will be interesting to see if they can get into a more competitive mode against each other for this one.

Best potential later-round match: Adam Scott was Rory McIlroy about a decade earlier. A can't-miss superstar with a billion-dollar swing, he's been very good at times and very average at others. Perhaps young McIlroy will seek tips on how to better remain on the championship path.

Upset special: In 10 career starts at this event, Jim Furyk has never advanced beyond the third round. He'll face a guy in Ryan Palmer who is already playing some strong early-season golf.

Martin Kaymer
Kaymer

Sleeper: Yuta Ikeda has now played in 13 career PGA Tour-sanctioned events and never finished better than T-22. It's only a matter of time before the 25-year-old makes a splash, though. He owns eight career international victories.

Winner: Tough road game for European Tour member Martin Kaymer, huh? Not exactly. The world's No. 2-ranked player actually lives just 75 minutes away in Scottsdale and while he won't commute during the week, he's not quite a foreigner when it comes to playing desert golf.


XXXXXX BRACKET

Strength: Overall talent. Top to bottom, no bracket has more raw talent than this one. Though Tiger Woods obviously skews the numbers as far as major victories, three others own such hardware and another three have already won titles this season.

Weakness: Injuries. Tim Clark has a bad toe, Camilo Villegas has a bad back and Ernie Els has a bad neck -- all of which has caused them to withdraw from tournaments in recent weeks.

Best opening-round match: There might not be a better first-day pairing on the entire sheet than Geoff Ogilvy versus Padraig Harrington. Someone should mic these guys up, too; as two of the game's more thoughtful and eloquent speakers, their conversations could be riveting.

Best potential later-round match: Chicks dig the long ball. So, too, does everyone else, which means a possible second-round matchup between Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson would be a fun "anywhere you can hit, I can hit further" experience for all.

Upset special: Peter O'Malley. Nick O'Hern. And now & Thomas Bjorn? Tiger Woods has been felled by unexciting, methodical plodders in the past. Coming off a recent victory in Qatar, the veteran Bjorn will hardly be in awe of his decorated opponent.

Jeff Overton
Overton

Sleeper: It's been a quiet year so far for Jason Day, but this is the type of event that has turned very good players like Geoff Ogilvy and Henrik Stenson into high-profile ones and he's ready to make such a leap.

Winner: There aren't many more talented PGA Tour members without a win than Jeff Overton. He proved last year that he can not only hang with the world's best, but can do so in this format, playing brilliant golf at times during the Ryder Cup. Boom, baby.


XXXXXX BRACKET

Strength: Match play experience. Exactly half of the players in this bracket have competed in at least one of the last two editions of the Ryder Cup.

Weakness: Driving distance. In this format, it's often an advantage to hit your approach shot second and on this course booming drives have plenty of fairway to find. Only Phil Mickelson and Alvaro Quiros qualify as big hitters from this group, though.

Best opening-round match: Only one Wednesday game features a matchup of former AMPC finalists, as Ian Poulter is the defending champion and Stewart Cink was runner-up in 2008.

Best potential later-round match: Rickie Fowler has long looked up to Phil Mickelson and the veteran has taken the youngster under his wing, even pairing with him in one match during last year's Ryder Cup.

Upset special: After skipping this event last year, Mickelson decided to forgo vacation with his family and play this time around. You've got to wonder whether his heart will really be into it, though, or whether he'll have the jet gassed up and ready to join Amy and the kids as soon as possible.

Ross Fisher
Fisher

Sleeper: Anders Hansen is only two weeks removed from coming up one stroke shy of forcing a playoff with Quiros in Dubai. That result did allow him to become the last man to automatically qualify for this week's field.

Winner: Is there a more underrated player among the world's elite than Ross Fisher? He might not look pretty, but he gets the job done, including a fourth-place performance in this event two years ago and a World Match Play title later that season.


The Semifinals: Fisher over Goosen and Kaymer over Overton.

The Finals: Kaymer over Fisher.


Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

With the current season winding down and the next campaign still two months away, there was some pretty major off-course news in the golf world over the past few days. Three of the world's best players -- Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer -- have each reportedly decided against pursuing a PGA Tour membership for next year.

[+] Enlarge
Rory McIlroy
Allan Henry/US PresswireRory McIlroy, 21, has reportedly decided against pursuing a PGA Tour membership for next year.

What does that mean? Well, right off the bat these collective decisions should send up some serious red flags in the Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., headquarters. Even though they are hardly stalwarts of the U.S. circuit -- Westwood has held membership in the past but not this season, McIlroy was a rookie in 2010 and Kaymer has never owned any status -- they are proving what many in the industry have been whispering for a long time.

The PGA Tour needs the players a lot more than the players need the PGA Tour.

Before going any further, let's clear up one common misconception: Just because these players won't be PGA Tour members doesn't mean we'll never see 'em on this side of the pond. Each has already qualified for the four majors next season, and barring some dramatic, unforeseen plummet in ranking, they will qualify for the three stateside World Golf Championship events and the Players Championship. As former members who have relinquished status, Westwood and McIlroy will be allowed to make a total of 10 appearances; Kaymer, who might still be mulling his options, may play up to a dozen times since he is a career-long non-member.

Sounds like a win-win proposition, doesn't it? Well, it is. Really, other than limitations on the number of tournament starts, the only negative to being non-members is that those players won't be eligible to compete in the season-ending FedEx Cup playoffs -- an ultralucrative money-grab instituted in part to lure these world-class players back to the U.S. during the season's final months.

This is nothing new for foreign-born pros. Seve Ballesteros renounced his membership on the U.S. tour midcareer; Colin Montgomerie never joined. So why are PGA Tour executives likely experiencing a queasy feeling right now? Because these three players could set an example by which all superstars could live.

It recalls the dog-chasing-its-tail discussion about the Tour increasing the minimum of 15 tournament appearances each year. (The European Tour recently raised its requirement for a second straight year, now enforcing that members must compete in at least 13 events.) While such a scenario might be beneficial to the game, it could risk losing big-name players who would rather forgo membership than be tied down to more stringent requirements. If you don't think Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or Ernie Els would jump ship, well, perhaps you just haven't been listening.

"The guys that mean a lot to the tour, you don't want to start trapping them," Els said earlier this year. "That's not going to work. That's going to backfire, and you're probably going to lose players. It will run its course."

Throw in the new rule about each member being required to compete in one of five "designated tournaments," those that are lacking in perennial star power, and clearly PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is finding his next shot wedged between a rock and a hard place. He is attempting to make the product more entertaining for fans but at the same time knows many of the potential implementations that could improve the circuit will have an adverse effect by pushing away the superstars.

Oh, and just in case you haven't been paying attention during the past 15 years of the Tiger Woods era, understand this: Golf is more reliant on its elite players to produce television ratings and drive sponsorship revenue than any other professional sport.

In Westwood, McIlroy and Kaymer, the PGA Tour will be without three of the world's top nine players, according to the Official World Golf Ranking. Far from an anomaly, this is an emerging theme, with more top-ranked players hailing from all corners of the globe than ever before. Although each of these three won a PGA Tour-sanctioned event this season, perhaps the biggest indictment of the current system comes from McIlroy, who just finished a rookie campaign that included a victory at the Quail Hollow (now Wells Fargo) Championship and promptly celebrated by trading in his PGA Tour card for a get-out-of-jail-free card.

"I found myself in America last year, especially in the FedEx Cup playoff series, just not wanting to be there," the 21-year-old told reporters at last week's HSBC Champions event. "I started switching on the Golf Channel and watching the Omega European Masters in Switzerland and thinking to myself I would rather be there."

Unlike those of previous generations, today's elite pro golfers live in a world with options. With private jets at the ready, travel is easier than ever before, allowing players to all be modern-day versions of Gary Player, in essence cherry-picking their own schedules rather than simply competing in whatever is offered during a given week.

Make no mistake: For those who aren't part of the upper echelon, America remains the land of opportunity in golf, with bigger purses and greater prestige tied to the PGA Tour events. It's the better players, though -- those the Tour needs in order to succeed on a weekly basis -- who will earn money wherever they compete and carry prestige with them to any tournament.

The notion that these golfers no longer need the PGA Tour as much as the PGA Tour needs them isn't a new one, but its major theme and subsequent result are beginning to play out right before our eyes. The game is becoming more global with each passing week, meaning less and less do the top players feel the need to take up PGA Tour membership.

Such an idea should have Finchem and his fellow executives nervous about the PGA Tour's future. It remains to be seen what kind of foresight and creativity can be employed to keep more top players competing in the U.S. more often. One thing is certain: This is a critical juncture for the PGA Tour, and without a proper plan in place, its power could be severely weakened by those players who wish to ply their craft elsewhere around the world.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.