Ryder Cup: Bernhard Langer miss gave Martin Kaymer the strength to sink that crucial putt

Chat with fellow German turns around fortunes and mood of match-winner

The huddle was almost Poulter-like in scale. A sea of outstretched arms bearing recording devices crashing against the dais to seek the testimony of the man whose putt sealed the Ryder Cup in Europe's favour. There was plenty for Martin Kaymer to tell, not least how a fireside chat on Friday night with his idol and mentor Bernhard Langer had saved the hero of the hour from despair.

It has been a while since the world wanted to know Kaymer's thoughts. The inexorable fall from the major-winning height of 2010 at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits and his subsequent rise to the world No 1 ranking, was painful. There was a period around the start of last year when Kaymer couldn't miss. He was the Keegan Bradley of European golf. His views were sought on everything from the Euro crisis in Germany to Rory McIlroy's hair.

Typically commentators would ask him to explain, for example, why he thought McIlroy had not yet won a major and when that moment might come. The pair played together on the final day at Abu Dhabi at the end of 2010. It never came close to being a contest. Kaymer closed on 24 under par, eight shots clear of the field. He played golf that day from another world. Yet it was McIlroy who would emerge to dominate the following year.

Kaymer fiddled with his technique to turn a fade into a draw for the Masters at Augusta in April of 2011 and has barely been seen since. Until Sunday. Nicolas Colsaerts apart, Kaymer arrived at Medinah the lowest ranked member of either team, three places higher than the Belgian at No 32. Kaymer qualified for the Ryder Cup in the 10th spot. Had Ian Poulter not been assured of his place as a captain's pick he would have attended the final qualifying event in Europe, which in all likelihood would have dumped Kaymer out of the team.

Kaymer's form had been returning but slowly. He needed a big afternoon on the first day at Medinah to convince Jose Maria Olazabal that he had a significant role to play across the weekend. A heavy fourball defeat to Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson playing alongside Justin Rose sucked the brittle confidence from his game and made him question the value of a Ryder Cup experience from which he was gaining nothing. He was already on the phone to Langer before he reached the team room.

"I sat down with Bernhard and talked to him a little bit about the Ryder Cup because my attitude wasn't the right one. But now, after that match against Steve [Stricker], I know how important the Ryder Cup became and is for Jose Maria Olazabal. Bernhard helped me so much by just sitting down with me and talking about it. He told me I must not hide away from the rest of the team just because I felt I was playing poorly.

"He said I had to relax, to become involved in the team-room atmosphere, and accept that I was an equal member of the team. He said it was important to build relationships with the other guys, because that would help me play great golf, knowing that we depended on each other. And he told me that I must stop worrying about my game so much, because I was getting in my own way."

As the events of Sunday unfolded relentlessly through the afternoon, it became increasingly clear that fate was drawing Kaymer in. The 10-6 deficit was such that only a late starter would be in a position to secure the winning point. It came down to the penultimate match in which Kaymer was wrestling with Stricker. The duel was laboured yet intense. The match was all-square after 16 holes. The breakthrough came on the 17th when Kaymer stole ahead.

All he had to do now was hold on down the last. Both players missed birdie putts on a green described by Johnny Miller as somewhere between a tile floor and porcelain. Stricker slid 15 feet past the hole, Kaymer was eight feet away. Stricker had to hole to have a chance to halve the match. He did. Kaymer's mind drifted to that moment 21 years ago when Langer was faced with a similar putt at Kiawah Island to win the Ryder Cup.

The 18th green was surrounded by a mass of faces frozen by tension. His team-mates, the opposition, wives, girlfriends, family, everybody it seemed that he had ever known was peering through that window of time with eyes fixed on his back. The same pressure squeezed Langer's putt wide. Kaymer imagined he saw a foot print across the line of his putt. He can't recall the roll of the ball. Only the sound it made hitting the back of the cup. The Ryder Cup was won and he was back at the heart of the narrative.

"It's a completely different level from my victory at the PGA. The major win was just for myself, but I can see the guys behind me, my brother was here and my father was here, Sergio [Garcia] ran on to the green. It's so much more behind me. Now I know how it really feels to win the Ryder Cup. This was a year-changing development for me. Everything seems so much brighter and more positive for me now."

For that, he has Langer to thank. Kaymer shares much of the quiet dignity inherent in his countryman. He talks with the same sensitivity about the game. It is clear he loves and respects golf every bit as much as Langer, and understands that to truly appreciate its gifts, golfers must pass through the ringer. Kaymer returns to the fairways in Scotland this week at the Dunhill Links Championship, where he won at the height of his powers two years ago.

How much greater are the chances of repeating that victory after Sunday's adventure?

"It is great when you have someone like that [Langer] you can turn to. I took his advice, and you can see the results."

News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
United States President Barack Obama, right, uses actor Keegan-Michael Key from Key & Peele to play the part of 'Luther, President Obama's anger translator'
video
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions