"Balls of steel" - Craig Connelly on Martin Kaymer's 2012 Ryder Cup heroics

Kaymer 2012 1

Today is Christmas Eve for golfers - the night before the Ryder Cup gets underway. 

The time has almost arrived. The moment is almost upon us. In just a few short hours, the latest edition of golf’s greatest event will be underway. 

To help get you in the mood, we spoke to top Scottish caddie Craig Connelly, who has given us an amazing, exclusive, first-hand account of how Martin Kaymer – with whom he split recently – helped secure the winning point for Europe in the stunning, dramatic, unforgettable 2012 Ryder Cup. 

That’s enough from us. We’ll let 'Wee Man' take it from here.

-- 

Kaymer 2012 Pic 2

I had only started working with Martin again a few weeks before the Ryder Cup, at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio. He was all over the shop. He didn’t play well and had a poor time at the US PGA at Kiawah Island the following week. He still made the team but he was struggling and that continued into the practice rounds at Medinah.

He was paired with Justin [Rose] in the fourballs on Friday afternoon and didn’t play great. They lost 3&2 to Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar and, afterwards, Martin was pretty down. He felt that he hadn’t performed and that he’d let Justin down. 

Of course, that’s no way to think because the fact of the matter is that you’re not letting anybody down. You’re trying your best. It was just unfortunate that he was nowhere near his best that day.

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Next thing, he’s dropped for the whole of Saturday. 

That was a tough one. That was hard tough to take, for us both. 

You know that golf isn’t a team sport – but it is for this week and you can’t help wishing you were out there hitting the shots and contributing. But you can’t. All you can do is get the pom-poms out and, when you’re used to contributing, that’s very, very tough. Horrible.

Kaymer 2012 Pic 4

Even though Martin suspected he might sit the day out, it was still difficult and, from my point of view, it was hard to know what to do. What do you say to him? How do you get ready for Sunday? 

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I got a bit of advice from a friend on the Saturday who said: “All you can do is make sure you win your point on Sunday.” That’s all there was for it, and Martin knew that. By hook or by crook, he was going to deliver that point. It didn’t matter to him that it might mean nothing to the overall outcome of the match. At 10-6 down, away from home, going into Sunday and playing in the penultimate match, you want it to come down to you but you’re not in control of that. As it happened, it did come to him – and cometh the hour, cometh the man. 

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He had absolute balls of steel against Steve Stricker that day. Huge. You talk about German footballers and how they never seem to miss penalties. Martin was Europe’s penalty-taker right there over that putt – and he buried it. 

Most people watching thought that it was over when he hit the green and, to be fair, so did I, particularly given where Stricker was, way past the hole and up on the top tier. That left him a seriously difficult putt, even for somebody who putts as well as Stricker does. So, your heart’s pounding because you think it’s over but your head’s reminding you that it’s not done yet. 

Martin Kaymer Putt 2012

Up steps Stricker. Decent putt but about 12 feet short. Martin’s got a birdie for the win and, Martin being Martin, he wanted to finish in style. He wanted to birdie it. 

Up he comes. 

Now, if he hits the putt on-line, it would have been okay. But he just got it a bit low with, what I thought was decent pace. It catches what they call the ‘fall line’ and it fell away – and kept going and going. 

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Honestly, when he first hit it, I didn’t think much of it until it got the hole and kept going past. Next thing... Stricker holes his putt. Unbelievable.

I’m standing there thinking, ‘Jesus – it’s been a s**t week and you’ve worked so hard to give yourself this opportunity and this happens’. Then I looked at Martin. He didn’t look flustered at all. That told me he had it totally under control. 

Kaymer 2012 Pic 3

Still, I was a bit nervous. At that point I glanced down at the image of Seve on my sleeves I remember thinking. "Are you up there? If you are, give him a hand holing this one.’

Up steps Martin. Eight feet. It drops. All over. Job done. 

‘The Miracle at Medinah’.

Incredible.

Afterwards, Martin says that, of all the putts you could ever ask for to win the Ryder Cup, this was the easiest one. "Inside right" and all that. You’re thinking, “Aye, very good!” That’s not what I’d have wanted. I’d have wanted to hear, “That’s good, mate. You can pick that up.” 

Kaymer 2012 Pic 5

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But what a moment. Career defining. Memories that’ll last a lifetime. Martin’s gone down in Ryder Cup folklore as the guy who sealed the most improbable win of all time. Amazing. Just amazing. 

Every time I see it, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I actually watched it again a few nights ago before I flew out to Paris. It’s as brilliant now as it was then. It’s impossible to watch it enough times.

What was shaping up to be a really, really poor week turned out to be the greatest of them all. 

Like I said… amazing."

• As told to Michael McEwan

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