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But Kaymer is a tough, stubborn kid, and he patiently put together a fine season with five top seven finishes to become the first German to win the Sir Henry Cotton rookie of the year award. Despite many entreaties, he played that season without an agent, relying on his parents to handle all of his off-course affairs. "I might have been leaving a little money on the table," he says, "but when you have a team like that behind you, it is easier to play your best."
He also had a valuable adviser in Fanny Sunesson, whom Philip calls "the famous caddie lady." In various conversations Martin alternately refers to Sunesson as his coach, manager and friend. They got to know each other during his amateur days through Sunesson's work with the German Golf Federation. "I seek her advice on pretty much everything," says Kaymer. "She is very, very smart—not only about the correct way to play golf but also the business side of the sport and the difficulties of being a touring professional." Sunesson guided Kaymer to a real agent, the highly capable Johan Elliot of the boutique agency Sportyard, and a low-key professional caddie in Justin Grenfell-Hoyle.
During the first week with his new looper Kaymer won his 2008 European tour opener, the Abu Dhabi Championship. That summer he summoned the defining performance of his young career. By then Rina was nearing the end of a two-year battle with cancer, the diagnosis having come only days after Martin's emotional triumph in Düsseldorf. He had been considering skipping the BMW to spend every last minute with his mother, but she urged him to play. The pressure to perform in the fatherland is such that even the great Bernhard Langer, German golf's lone deity, never won the BMW, one of the European tour's flagship events. But Kaymer felt an eerie calm throughout that week, and he methodically, relentlessly built a six-shot lead through 54 holes at Munich Eichenried Golf Complex, which was draped in German flags. On Sunday all the emotion finally waylaid Kaymer, and after hitting two balls into the water and making triple bogey on the 11th hole he was suddenly trailing by a stroke. Philip had been following on foot, but he retreated to the clubhouse, so painful was it to watch his brother's demise. But Martin kept scrapping and birdied the 72nd hole to force a playoff with Anders Hansen. Before the first extra hole Philip sought out Martin and offered a quick pep talk: "Remember who you are playing for." On the first extra hole, a par-5, Martin bombed a drive and had a six-iron left to the green. He thought not of his ailing mother but of the ill-fated five-iron in Jakarta a year earlier. He followed with a gorgeous shot to seven feet and birdied the hole to snatch the victory. Addressing the crowd afterward, Martin broke down in tears while dedicating the victory to his mother. A whole country cried with him. Rina could not be at the course, but she and Horst monitored the action from home. "It was very, very emotional, and that is all I can say about it," says Horst, removing his spectacles to rub his eyes. Rina died a few weeks later.
Given how well Kaymer has played through family adversity, it would be natural to think that he is somehow immune to the pressure of tournament golf, but he admits to feeling overwhelmed at times as he has progressed into golf's big time. "If I am honest, in the past I was almost a little shy for the majors, maybe a little scared," he says. "Perhaps I wasn't sure I belonged there and my golf was too defensive." In his first seven major championships—including two trips to Augusta—Kaymer missed three cuts and failed to finish better than 34th. He had a breakthrough at last year's PGA Championship, tying for sixth. "That was very important for me," he says. "It showed I can compete in the big events, if only I play my normal game." The lesson was reinforced with a tie for third at last month's CA Championship at Doral, Kaymer's best finish in America. So far.
Kaymer has spent the last few months with Georgia on his mind. Back in December he said, "We were already preparing for Augusta. Fanny"—who won two Masters alongside Nick Faldo—"has me hitting very specific shots for specific holes: lob shots that stop quickly, bump and runs to flags on a back tier. I need more options for my short game. I have a very consistent long game. The goal over the last year or two has been to improve my putting and my short game. I think I have."
Kaymer's all-around proficiency has impressed his peers. Says Aaron Baddeley, "He's a great player who is only going to get better because he works so hard at it. He does everything well and nothing really spectacular. But there are no weaknesses, which is why he's Number 8 in the world."
During Masters week Kaymer will benefit from the continued tutelage of Langer, the owner of two green jackets, with whom he has played a handful of practice rounds at Augusta. Langer raves about Kaymer's technique but is even more impressed with his maturity. "He has a good head on his shoulders," says Langer. "If he doesn't get distracted, he should be up there for a long time."
What kind of distractions might he be worried about? A year ago Kaymer established a home base in Scottsdale, playing out of Whisper Rock. Asked what he likes about the area, Kaymer says with a smile, "Great weather, great golf course, many beautiful women." But not necessarily in that order. Kaymer is clearly enjoying being a jet-setting bachelor. "I like American women," he says. "They are very open, easy to talk to, very straightforward. A little different from German girls."
Kaymer has throttled back on one of his other passions, go-kart racing. Last summer, shortly after a stretch of hot play that included back-to-back wins at the French and Scottish Opens, Kaymer was leading the Race to Dubai standings when he broke his left foot in a racetrack smashup in Scottsdale. Having grown up navigating the autobahn, he is still indignant about the accident. "It was a right turn, and the dumb guys in front of me hit their brakes, which they were not supposed to do," he says. "I struck the kart in front of me full power." It took two metal plates and nine screws to put his foot back together, and Kaymer missed two months of action, ultimately dropping to third in the final Dubai standings.
The time away from golf wasn't a total wash—he taught himself to play the guitar and returned to Germany to spend time with his father and brother. Together, they launched MK Golf, a venture to help Martin maximize the bountiful business opportunities that have come with his meteoric rise. Horst is ostensibly retired, but he now works full-time for his son. ("Ha! I work for him!" scoffs Martin.) Philip will take the German equivalent of the bar exam this spring and then become more immersed in his brother's affairs. "It is more comfortable for me to have them involved," says Martin. "They have always been a big part of everything I've done."