ABU DHABI // While Henrik Stenson was doing his best to prove practice is overrated, Martin Kaymer admitted a guilty conscience led him to cancel his regular off-season skiing trip, and head to the range instead.
The German ended years of taking it easy over the Christmas break in favour of a concerted effort to fine-tune his game.
The extra practice paid dividends in his first competitive round of 2017. Kaymer carded a six-under 66 to finish the opening day of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship two strokes behind leader Stenson.
Since he last teed it up at the start of last month, Stenson had hit the slopes of Utah more times than he did golf balls. That used to be Kaymer’s modus operandi as well, but not this winter.
“The last two years, I went skiing, too,” said Kaymer, the last of whose 23 career wins came at the 2014 US Open.
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“But I had a bad conscience in the winter-time because, every winter since 2005 I spent in America over Christmas and New Year.
“Then the last two years, I went skiing. Especially after my 2014 season, when I won my second major, you kind of take it a little bit easier.
“You see it in the next year on the golf course. I had a lot of top 10 finishes, but that little bit that you need in order to win was missing. Therefore I went back to America and practiced.”
Kaymer has won three times around the National Course, although not since 2011. The former world No 1 is now down at 53 in the standings, and he said he started a “long-term journey” to rise again by way of the work he did in the off season.
“Success sometimes doesn’t come right away, and I didn’t expect myself to shoot great scores here right away,” he said.
“If it happens, it happens, but it was not what I was expecting. It’s more like a long-term journey that I’m trying to start.
“That’s why I didn’t take too much time off. I think it will pay off during the year, not only one or two rounds.”
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