Tony spoke to former Reuters golf correspondent Tony Jimenez to look ahead to this week’s US Open at Pebble Beach:
“I’ve always believed that one of the toughest issues an elite golfer has to deal with is the monotony of competition.
Once you’ve done the rounds of the same schedule and the same tournaments for four or five years in a row, there’s an element of monotony that creeps in and it’s a big hurdle to overcome.
We all get older and more set in our ways and how you deal with that is crucial in terms of trying to maintain high standards. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have done that brilliantly. They’re both in their 40s now, most players have faded away by that age, but they both still show a real desire to compete at the top.
The most difficult quality you have to maintain is enthusiasm. They may not be as consistent week-in, week-out as they once were, but Tiger and Phil have not lost that dynamism, that freshness about their play, even at their advanced ages.
With all that in mind, it was heartening to see Martin Kaymer’s return to form at The Memorial tournament a couple of weeks ago. We’ve not heard much from the German for a long time and he appeared confident again at Muirfield Village, going close to achieving his first big win since the 2014 US Open.
Kaymer may be a twice Major champion but he hadn’t been in that position high up on the leaderboard for a while and he seemed to be back on the ball from a mental standpoint. I know he’s weaned himself off social media recently and clearly thinks that element of his day-to-day life sapped too much of his energy.
He’s taking a long time to banish the demons of that meltdown he suffered in Abu Dhabi in 2015. For those who don’t remember, he collapsed after holding a 10-shot lead with 13 holes remaining in the final round and Frenchman Gary Stal nipped in to steal the title from under his nose.
I’m sure Kaymer has struggled to push that to the back of his mind. He’s a single guy and, on that basis, I’ve always thought that it’s often difficult to put that sort of golfing setback into perspective if you haven’t got a family and other responsibilities to fall back on.
You need to find the necessary enthusiasm to reset your career targets and keep moving forward in the sport. When you’ve got a family growing up, there’s always that added responsibility. It’s part and parcel of the mental state you need to create to keep performing well out on the course.
As a player, you’ve got to be able to put that sort of golfing meltdown behind you. Martin will never forget it, of course, and you know he’ll never be able to take any victory for granted again.
He’s a good player, no doubt about it, but has he become used to being just one of the pack or does he still want to reassert himself as one of the top guys?
You do wonder how Abu Dhabi is still affecting him but he looks like he’s swinging the club well again and if the 2014 champion keeps up the form he showed at The Memorial, he’ll be one to watch in the US Open at Pebble Beach this week.
It will be interesting to see how high the rough is at Pebble. If it’s as penal as it was at Muirfield Village for example, which I hope it is, it will be more of a test off the tee.
It’s a fantastic venue and it will make for great TV. It’s one of my favourite places in the world. Northern California has a great climate for golf and they’ll be playing in temperatures in the mid-60s.
The course is not overly long so it should be a good examination for everyone. It’s one layout in the States that’s similar to the spectacular links courses that we have in England, Scotland and Ireland.
It’s going to be an exciting week, I have no doubt, and I’m sure we’ll get a worthy champion.
And no one will go into the event with more confidence than Rory McIlroy after his runaway seven-shot win at the Canadian Open on Sunday.”