By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Martin Kaymer ended up staying in Germany a little longer than he'd planned to help his brother celebrate his birthday.
Before the festivities, though, Kaymer spent four days with his coach, Guenter Kessler. And when the 26-year-old German returned home to Scottsdale, Ariz., last week he hit the range hard and worked on the tweaks they made to his swing.
"We've been changing a few things now in the last months now," Kaymer said. "Nothing major, just the backswing, to get a little bit closer on plane, shorten it a little bit. So that will take a little bit.
"It was important to see my coach in order to get that going, to have somebody who kind of like has a look at it all the time that I don't make any other mistakes."
Before the two went to work, Kaymer hadn’t been 100 percent happy with his swing. Not after missing the cut at the Masters, even though the reigning PGA champ followed up with a ninth-place finish in Malaysia.
After the two-week break, though, Kaymer comes to Quail Hollow -- a course he likes for the shot values as well as its aesthetics -- ready to play. He tied for 11th at the Wells Fargo Championship two years ago in his only other appearance and he has his eye on next week’s PLAYERS Championship, too.
"I really liked the golf course," Kaymer says of Quail Hollow. "It was a good preparation I thought for the Sawgrass week. I think it's a way underrated golf course. It's one of the best we play on the PGA TOUR, so there was no reason why I shouldn't come back."
While he was idle, Kaymer lost his spot atop the Official World Golf Ranking to Lee Westwood. He could regain it this week but at the same time, he understands and appreciates the volatility of the competition for world No. 1.
"At the moment anything can happen," he said. "Every week you have four or five guys up there. Anything can happen week to week, can change, and I think that is a great thing what we have in golf at the moment.
"Next week it can be an American player up there, then the other week it can be a European player up there again. So for me it was of course it is enjoyable to have that challenge every week, and if I become the No. 1 soon again, I wouldn't mind it. It's a nice spot to be in.
"But at the end of the day, it doesn't really change a lot."
CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- Luckily, there were no injuries. Well, unless you count the strained hamstring suffered by Rory McIlory's manager, Stuart Cage.
McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Sergio Garcia, Nathan Green and Brendan de Jonge, though, came out of Monday evening's soccer match at E.E. Waddell High School unscathed. Just not unbeaten.
"(We) played a local team from here who were a lot better than us," McIlory explained with a grin.
The final score was 7-4. McIlroy and his cohorts trailed 4-1 at halftime but came back to even the score midway through the second half.
"Then they turned it on at the end and beat us," McIlroy said. "But it was great fun. Luckily no injuries, so we're ready to go for this week."
Kaymer was quick to point out that "I made the first goal, so I kept the team going." Of course, McIlroy joked that he didn't remember seeing Kaymer until halftime so there seems to be some discrepancy.
For the record, McIlroy, Garcia and Michael Doren, Camilo Villegas' caddy, joined Kaymer in scoring goals in the losing effort. And when asked whether there were any red cards issued, though, McIlroy quickly jumped in.
"No sort of reckless challenges going in, so it was okay," he said, smiling. – Helen Ross
As mentioned earlier in the week. Luke Donald has another chance at becoming No. 1 in the world.
Here’s how: Donald, currently No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking, needs to win or finish second at the Zurich Classic to overtake Martin Kaymer, currently No. 2 in the OWGR. Lee Westwood, the current No. 1, needs to finish fifth or better at the Ballentine’s Championship to stay at the top. If Donald is second at the Zurich Classic, Westwood needs to finish in the top three to stay at No. 1 and if Donald wins in New Orleans, Westwood also needs a win.
So far, so good for Donald. The Englishman is 3 under through his first 12 holes today and 7 under for the week, just two shots off the current lead of Bubba Watson. Westwood, meanwhile, is six shots off the pace in Seoul, South Korea.
Whatever happens, Donald is well on his way to what looks like will be a career year. He has five top-10s in six starts, which includes a win and a runner-up at last week’s Heritage, where he lost in a playoff.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Donald’s season, though, is that as well as he’s been hitting it, he still ranks 166th in driving distance, 141st in greens in regulation and 134th in total driving.
So what’s been the difference? He’s first in putting average and second in scrambling.
That’s not exactly a huge departure the rest of his career -- the difference is Donald is turning pars into birdies and so on, which is why he also leads the PGA TOUR in scoring average. He’s simply making more shots than in the past.
For the third straight week, Luke Donald has a chance to overtake Lee Westwood and become the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Donald entered this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans ranked No. 3 behind Westwood and Martin Kaymer. He needs to win or finish second to overtake Kaymer -- and possibly unseat his fellow Brit at the top.
Of course, all this depends on how Westwood does at the Ballantine's Championship, which is being played this week in Seoul.
Westwood needs to finish fifth or better there to retain the No. 1 spot he wrestled from Kaymer with his win Sunday in Indonesia. But if Donald is second at the Zurich Classic, Westwood needs to finish in the top three to stay at No. 1 and if Donald wins in New Orleans, Westwood also needs a victory to hold him off.
Westwood shot an even par 72 in the first round at the Ballantine’s Championship and is currently tied for 36th.
Donald, who hasn’t finished lower than 10th in his last five PGA TOUR starts, needed a win at last week’s Heritage to grab the No. 1 spot. He ended up in solo second after losing a three-hole playoff with Brandt Snedeker.
Donald tees off the first hole at TPC Louisiana at 1:30 p.m. ET. Click here to tollow Donald’s round on ShotTracker.
AUGUSTA, Ga. – The Green Jacket is obviously the ultimate prize. But Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald could make some big moves in the Official World Golf Ranking on Sunday, as well.
Donald, who is currently tied for third, three strokes behind McIlroy, could overtake Martin Kaymer as the world No. 1 with a victory. That’s as long as Lee Westwood isn’t alone in second.
Interestingly, Donald was Kaymer’s pick to win at Augusta National prior to the start of the Masters.
And if McIlroy should win his first major championship, he would move to a career-high No. 3 in the world. In that case, Donald would have to finish outside the top three and Phil Mickelson lower than fourth.
McIlroy currently clocks in at No. 9. His highest position is seventh after last year’s Deutsche Bank Championship.
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM Managing Editor
AUGUSTA, Ga. – This week’s featured group of top-ranked Martin Kaymer, No. 2 Lee Westwood and No. 10 Matt Kuchar are set to tee off at 1:26 p.m. ET in Friday’s second round of the Masters.
Here’s a look at what each needs to do in Round 2.
WHAT KUCHAR NEEDS TO DO FRIDAY: Just keep it going.
Going back to last year's Memorial tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance, Kuchar has been one of the TOUR's most consistent golfers. In his last 20 starts, he has posted 13 top-10 finishes and has not finished outside the top 35.
So it was no surprise that he put himself right in contention by shooting an opening 4-under 68, just his second round in the 60s in 15 career rounds at Augusta National. Asked what it’s like to be so dialed in these last few months, Kuchar replied, "It's a great feeling."
If Kuchar can continue to maintain the kind of accuracy he displayed on Thursday -- he hit 12 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens in regulation -- he should be a serious factor on the weekend.
WHAT WESTWOOD NEEDS TO DO FRIDAY: Turn it on.
Last year at the Masters, each of Westwood's first three rounds were in the 60s, which is why he entered Sunday with the 54-hole lead (eventually finishing second, of course, to Phil Mickelson).
His even-par 72 on Thursday was filled with pot holes -- a short missed par putt on the opening hole, an overhooked second shot at the eighth that left him up against a tree, a poor tee shot at 12 that left him with an awkward bunker shot … well, you get the picture.
"It's not my game, is it, at the moment?," Westwood said afterward.
Still, the world's No. 2 player didn't shoot himself out of the tournament. But he has work to do. Finding a few more greens would help.
In the previous three years, Westwood finished in the top 10 in the field each year in greens in regulation. On Thursday, he hit just 10 of 18 greens, which left him tied for 75th in the field.
WHAT KAYMER NEEDS TO DO FRIDAY: Start packing.
Sorry to be so crass, but the world's No. 1 player clearly isn't close to figuring out Augusta National. He's missed the cut in his first three appearances, and after shooting a 6-over 78 on Thursday, he's on his way to another MC. Just four golfers recorded scores worse than Kaymer's on Thursday.
Kaymer struggled off the tee (just 6 of 14 fairways) and on the greens (35 putts needed). Incidentally, the only two players who needed more putts in Thursday's first round were Louis Oosthuizen and Graeme McDowell, who -- like Kaymer -- happened to win a major last year.
The German, frankly, doesn't even have a game plan for Friday.
"I think that I don't really know how to play the golf course," Kaymer said. " … "I think that maybe I got to sit down with Bernhard Langer later and ask him. You know, he won here twice and I think I can ... get good advice from him."
But probably not enough to save him this year.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM Site Producer
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- What do Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Louis Oosthuizen all have in common? Aside from the fact that all four have won at least one major, they all struggled mightily on the greens in Thursday’s opening round, which would explain why all of them are near the bottom of the leaderboard here in Round 2.
McDowell and Oosthuizen were dead last in putting in the first round with each taking 36 putts. Kaymer and Harrington were only slightly better with each taking 35 putts.
Conversely, Ricky Barnes tied for the fewest putts on Thursday, needing just 25 of them. In today’s second round, he’s continued that trend, taking just 18 over his first 12 holes. Consequently, he’s 6 under and one shot off the lead.
Similarly, Rory McIlroy, who has a share of the lead after his opening-round 65, took 26 putts Thursday. He’ll tee off later this afternoon.
The player McIlroy shared the overnight lead with, Alvaro Quiros, also had a good day on the greens with 27 putts -- the same as Y.E. Yang, who shot 67 and has since moved to 7 under thanks to 18 putts over his first 12 holes here in the second round.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Martin Kaymer didn't exactly play like the No. 1 golfer in the world on Thursday during the first round of the 75th Masters Tournament.
The 26-year-old German shot 78 -- his highest round ever at Augusta National. So suddenly the perplexed Kaymer is in danger of missing his fourth straight cut at the Masters.
In fact, only four players shot higher than the enormously talented German did, and two of those play the Champions Tour.
“For me it was very difficult,” he said. “Every day that I played here was a tough day so far. So, yeah, … I was disappointed, because there's some golf courses that suit you and some they just don't.”
Should Kaymer make another early exit, there are plenty of players waiting in the wings to take over the No. 1 spot in the world. In fact, five could end Kaymer's reign at six weeks come Sunday and here are the scenarios.
* Lee Westwood needs to win.
* Phil Mickelson needs to win and have Kaymer finish lower than solo second.
* Luke Donald has to win and have Westwood finish lower than solo second and Kaymer finish outside the top three.
* Graeme McDowell needs to win and have Mickelson finish lower than solo second, Westwood finish outside the top four and Kaymer finish outside the top 55 or miss the cut.
* Tiger Woods needs to win and have Mickelson finish lower than solo second, Westwood finish outside the top four and Kaymer finish outside the top 18.
Kaymer, who has won five times in the last 15 months – including the PGA Championship, is at a loss to explain his lack of success at Augusta National.
He decided to change his preparation this year – taking the last two weeks off. Kaymer spent the first back on the practice range back home in Scottsdale and the second in the Augusta area playing golf with his father and his brother.
Still, the frustration continued. In seven rounds now at Augusta National, Kaymer has only broken par once and he has never shot in the 60s.
“I was trying to hit good golf shots today and not playing very well,” Kaymer said. “My putting was okay, I think my short game was definitely better than the last three, four, years, but I just didn't hit the ball as good as the last two or three years ago.”
So what’s next for the frustrated Kaymer? To be honest, he’s not really sure. But he might see if he could pick the brain of his countryman Bernhard Langer, who has won two Masters.
“There's not really a game plan,” Kaymer said when asked about Friday’s second round. “I think that I don't really know how to play the golf course. I don't know, I can think about another hour or hour and a half or two hours, and I just don't really find a solution.
“I think that maybe I got to sit down with Bernhard Langer later and ask him. … I think that I can only get good advice from him.”
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- OK. So he hasn't made a cut in three previous starts at Augusta National.
Martin Kaymer is still the No. 1 player in the world with five wins in the last 15 months. So it would be folly to count the reigning PGA champ out even though his track record at the Masters leaves something to be desired.
“It can only get better,” Kaymer said, grinning and shrugging his shoulders. “If you miss the cut three times, then I think it cannot get really worse.”
Kaymer, who has held down the No. 1 spot for six weeks now, has come to understand that experience is key at Augusta National. He simply doesn't have the same kind of confidence level here that he does at Abu Dhabi, where he successfully defended his title earlier this year and has won three of the last four years.
"If I come to Abu Dhabi, I know what's going to happen," Kaymer said. "I will play well. I don't know why, but I know that. Every hole that I'm standing on the tee box, you know you have made birdie on that hole at one stage. You know where you can miss shots, where you can't miss shots.
"I didn't really believe it when I came here the first couple of times but a lot of people said you had to come here many, many times to see it and get used to it and every time you play you will see something different. And it's true. …
“That's the only difference: that you know that you have done well somewhere before. And I haven't done well here. But you know, there's always a first time."
So Kaymer decided to take a different approach as he prepared for this year's Masters. He has been off the last two weeks, spending one at home in Scottsdale practicing and the other with his father and brother here in southeast Georgia playing other nearby courses to get comfortable with the conditions.
"That was nice to have some time off and for us, for three of us, it was nice," Kaymer said.
Conventional wisdom has always held that players who can hit a draw prosper at Augusta National. Kaymer admits he got that into his head, and the draw is not the strength of the German's game. So in a way, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy, and only upon deeper consideration did he come up with an alternate theory.
"You can play well (at Augusta National) if you hit the ball straight," Kaymer said firmly. "You don't need to draw the ball. But I think my problem was always that I was not sharp enough in my short game. I missed a lot of short putts the last few years. I didn't make a lot of up-and-downs.
"I only missed the cut by one or two shots always. If I could improve my short game this week, then obviously it's no problem to make the cut. But it has nothing really to do with the draw, what I thought. Obviously, you make the golf course a little bit shorter, a little bit easier, but that was my problem the last few years."
So it comes as no surprise that Kaymer picks Luke Donald, who beat him in the title match of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, as the favorite this week.
"His short game is unbelievable," Kaymer said. "Obviously, he's not the longest but he's very straight, and his short game is fantastic. SO I think he has the best chances."
Kaymer was so impressed, he asked Donald what the secret to his prowess around the greens was.
"He said, 'I don't know,'" Kaymer recalled with a big smile. "I said, 'Okay, I understand.'"