There are plenty of high points in Martin Kaymer's career. His 59 in the 2006 Hasburg Classic comes to mind (with a bogey!). You could talk about his 10 European Tour wins over his career, and especially that PGA Championship he won in a playoff over Bubba Watson at Whistling Straits back in 2010.
But that highlight list wouldn't include a ton of stuff over the year and a half. Kaymer, a former No. 1 in the world, had fallen completely off the map, struggling with his golf swing and his putting stroke and all that comes between the two. His qualifying for the 2012 European Ryder Cup team was so in question that people were questioning if he should give up his spot to a better playing Euro in hopes of retaining the Cup for the team. And then came Medinah, where Kaymer was the hero, making the Cup-clinching putt on Sunday in his match against Steve Stricker, restarting his still-young career in the process.
But what if he had missed that putt on the 18th hole? Kaymer says he thinks it could have ruined his career.
"Now I honestly feel like my whole career might have been on the line," Kaymer said. "I sometimes think about what would have happened if I had missed it. Would I have had the mental strength to recover from thinking I had let down a whole continent?"
Kaymer went on to compare the putt to the one that won him his first major championship in that playoff against Bubba Watson, but noted that losing that would have been a personal letdown but a putt as big as the one at Medinah would have let down all his teammates along with an entire continent hoping to see the team's biggest Sunday comeback ever.
And it does make sense. A fragile golfer is a scary one, as we've seen with plenty of Q-School horror stories, and if Kaymer had botched that putt to pull out a comeback (and it would have been a really sloppy three-putt bogey at that), he might never have been able to recover.
On the flip side, it'll be interesting to see how a guy like Jim Furyk handles what happened to him in those team matches. He fell apart basically anytime he was in contention in 2012, and the Ryder Cup was the rotten cherry on top of a long year he will hope to forget, but what happens the next time he has a putt or a par to win a golf tournament? Will he be able to push out the demons of Medinah (and Olympic Club)? That is what Kaymer is talking about here.
But the German doesn't have to worry about that. He rolled in the clutch putt and can only think about what might have happened if that ball hadn't disappeared. Now he can go on being the hero and getting beers bought for him from fans across Europe that won't soon forget what happened when their team was down 10-6 heading into Sunday at the Ryder Cup.