Kaymer is in contention at Oak Hill after a pair of 68s the first two days. (Carr/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Three years ago, Martin Kaymer won his first career major championship and six months later ascended to No. 1 in the world, something that surprised even him.
"I was not playing like the best player on the planet," Kaymer said this week at Oak Hill. "I didn't feel like the best player. And therefore, I needed to change a few things."
Suddenly, Kaymer found himself on a slippery slope.
The German lost his No. 1 ranking just eight weeks later, missed the cut in three of his next seven majors, continued to watch his ranking slide as he tinkered with his swing and hasn't finished in the top 10 of a major since his playoff victory at Whistling Straits.
"I dropped down in the world rankings, but I didn't care about that," Kaymer admitted. "It was about the feeling that you have. If other people see you as being No. 1, but you don't see yourself as No. 1, how can you play like No. 1? That's not possible."
The feeling was gone and it took Kaymer until earlier this year to find it again. He stopped putting so much emphasis on trying to hit the ball right-to-left to fit Augusta National and was happy to be out of the spotlight.
"All of a sudden the expectations from yourself comes from the people, from the media, from the friends and the fans," he said. It's little bit of a strange situation that you need to get used to.
"You just want to play golf; that is all you want to do."
Through the first two rounds at Oak Hill, Kaymer has done it well, reaching 4 under with a pa of 68s to get within five strokes of the lead (he tees off at 2:15 p.m. ET Saturday).
It hasn't been just this week, either. Kaymer has three top 10s on the PGA TOUR and three more on the European Tour. Among them was a tie for ninth at last week's World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
"My short game has become a lot better, so I'm not surprised," Kaymer said. "I'm just happy where I am and I want to become better."
To his point, he was 8-for-8 in scrambling here on Friday.
The rest of his game has improved, too.
"I'm able to hit every shot I want," Kaymer said. "I was not able to do that when I came on TOUR in 2010, 2011. Now I don't have any trouble with drawing the ball, fading the ball. That's nice."