Nedbank Golf Challenge champion Martin Kaymer of Germany is preparing himself to throw everything into the final four rounds of his year in an attempt to defend his title when the tournament tees off on Thursday at Gary Player Country Club.
He finds himself up against the first 30-man field in the history of the event as it evolves into a new era, now a tournament co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour, with a rigorous set of qualifying criteria which have made for a fascinating, more eclectic field than ever.
Without a win in 2013 – much as he was in 2012 when he took the title – he knows that he need leave nothing in the tank as he searches for the win to put his career into overdrive again. “I enjoy coming here because it’s the last tournament of the year and you can put everything into it,” he said. “Last year was my last chance, this year is my last chance, so I like being under pressure. It would be nice to finish as high as possible and a victory would be the ultimate.
“They extended the field this year and that means more competition. I think that makes it more interesting for the spectators. Coming here is not just a tournament that we play, it’s really a great experience. We play pretty much the same tournaments 20 times a year, and then you come here,” he added.
He has to deal with a course on which he’s not entirely comfortable if he is to repeat 2012’s dose. “It’s a good golf course, but I’m a little surprised I have done well in the past, because a lot of holes don’t suit my eye,” he said.
“There are four or five holes where the fairway slopes from left to right. You are supposed to draw the ball into that slope, but I usually fade the ball, so I have to aim left of the fairway. Those things are not as comfortable when you stand on the tee box, but on the other hand I have done well here in the past. I know the golf course okay, but here I have to work a little bit more.”
He’s also experienced enough to know that trying too hard will probably make a successful title defence unlikely. “At the end of the day you have to wait for your chances. I can’t push it,” he said. “Last year I made a couple of mistakes here and there, but I could still win. You really need to be patient and wait for the chances… hopefully that will be enough. That’s the goal again this week.”
He’s currently ranked 38th in the world, a long way off his lofty former perch as world number one. But that position is not far from his thoughts. “It’s a great experience being number one in the world,” he said. “What comes with it is very interesting, but very difficult at the same time. Now I would be much better prepared than I was back then.”
And the Nedbank Golf Challenge can be his springboard.