AUGUSTA, GA. (AP) - Martin Kaymer got a little jolt of adrenaline when he turned onto Magnolia Lane for the first time this year.
He’s the guy everyone else is chasing.
He’s No. 1.
Then, back to reality.
Major season begins at Augusta National, a course that’s bedeviled the 26-year-old German in his young career. Three times, he’s played the Masters. Three times, he’s failed to make it to the weekend.
“I haven’t done well here,” Kaymer said Tuesday. “But, you know, there’s always a first time.”
He’s already had a couple of big breakthroughs. Last August, Kaymer won the PGA Championship in a playoff for his first major title. Then, after an eight-shot romp at Abu Dhabi, he made the final of the Match Play in February to vault past Lee Westwood for the top spot in the world rankings.
“I wouldn’t say it’s important, but it’s a nice feeling,” Kaymer said. “I was not thinking that it would happen (this) soon. Obviously, my expectations, they were high, but I was not expecting myself to be No. 1 by the Masters.”
The top ranking comes with an additional burden.
The world’s best player isn’t supposed to be missing the cut in one of the biggest events.
With that in mind, Kaymer decided to change things up, hoping a different routine might produce a better result at the Masters. He traded the PGA Tour event in Houston for a week at Sage Valley, prepping his game at a more leisurely pace on the Tom Fazio-designed course right up the road from Augusta National.
“Obviously, I didn’t really play well here, never made the cut. So I needed to change something,” Kaymer said. “If you miss the cut three times, then I think it cannot get really worse.”
Indeed, it can’t get much worse.
Kaymer has broken par only once in six Augusta rounds. Three times, he’s struggled around the course with a mediocre score of 76. Forget the back nine on Sunday afternoon. He’s never made it to the front nine on Saturday morning.
What’s the problem?