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Who is Martin Kaymer, and how did he become the No. 1 golfer in the world?

“At the moment, I feel very comfortable in the position I’m in,” says Germany’s Martin Kaymer, 26. “I’m under the radar.”

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“At the moment, I feel very comfortable in the position I’m in,” says Germany’s Martin Kaymer, 26. “I’m under the radar.”

PALM HARBOR

Quick quiz: Who is the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world?

Hint: It's not a certain Florida resident who recently had a much-publicized divorce. And it's not a left-handed Californian who won last year's Masters.

Give up?

It is Germany's Martin Kaymer, a low-key 26-year-old who won last year's PGA Championship and the Race for Dubai title as the European Tour's best player.

Most casual golf fans might not know much about Kaymer because he is a full-time member of the European Tour and plays only sparingly in the United States. He doesn't travel with a large posse, and he usually isn't mobbed by autograph hounds.

And that's just fine with him.

"At the moment, I feel very comfortable in the position I'm in," Kaymer said Tuesday at Innisbrook Resort, site of this week's Transitions Championship. "I'm under the radar. Maybe it's good for me that all of the attention is not on me all of the time."

If he keeps playing the way he has the past two years, Kaymer is going to get noticed more often. He won four times in 2010, including his first major when he defeated Bubba Watson in a playoff at the PGA Championship. He has won once this season, the Abu Dhabi Championship in his first European Tour start. And he finished second at the WGC-Match Play Championship three weeks ago in Arizona.

Because of that hot start coupled with last year's success, Kaymer surpassed Lee Westwood as the world's top player. He hasn't given up the top spot in three weeks, and a good showing in his first Transitions Championship will solidify his ranking.

Kaymer is only the second world No. 1 to play at Innisbrook. Vijay Singh was No. 1 in 2004 when he won the tournament. For most of the 11 years a PGA Tour event has been at Innisbrook, Tiger Woods has been the top player. Woods has not played at Innisbrook since it became a PGA event in 2000.

"Always heard this was a fantastic tournament and golf course," Kaymer said. "It suits my game; at least that's what I heard. I didn't want to play the week before Augusta (Masters) because I've done that for three years and never played well there."

Though he is golf's top dog now, Kaymer is a member of the European Tour and is not eligible for some PGA events. He is playing this week on a foreign exemption, one of two given out by the tournament. The other exemption went to Japan's 19-year-old Ryo Ishikawa.

PGA Tour rules stipulate that to be a member of the tour, players must be in at least 15 PGA tournaments. And European Tour players can be in no more than 12 PGA events including majors and World Golf Championship events. Because of that, Kaymer stays on the European Tour.

"It's very difficult if you live in Europe," Kaymer said. "I live in Germany now, and the travel schedule is crazy. If I moved to America, then I can see playing on the PGA Tour. It would make it easier. If I'm not moving to America, it's tougher.

"With the 15 tournaments (rule), it's just too much. If they would move it down to 13, then maybe. But I'm only 26. I don't want to have the burnout. I need to take care of my body as well."

Kaymer has a second home in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he will go after the Transitions, and then he'll head to Augusta the week before the Masters with his father and brother. The tournament is April 7-10.

His ranking will make him a favorite at the Masters. And it makes him a favorite in every tournament he plays. But he doesn't think about that.

"Of course I would like to stay (No. 1) as long as possible," he said. "If I take care of other things, that will happen automatically. You only have to worry about the world rankings if you play badly. If you play well, then you get into tournaments and play wherever you want.

"I never really believed I would become No. 1 in the world. It just happened. To win a major, that was one of my goals. And to win the first major I was in contention for, that was a little lucky as well."

Kaymer said he fully expects Woods to one day take over again as the world's top player. Until then, he's slowly getting used to his kinda, sorta fame.

"My last week in Scottsdale, I was in a steakhouse," Kaymer said. "After dinner I got a free dessert from the restaurant with a note that said, 'Congratulations on being No. 1.'

"Those things are very cool. I get recognized a little more now."

Imada returns: Tampa's Ryuji Imada was a late scratch from last year's Transitions because of a rib injury, but this year he is back to 100 percent and ready to compete. Imada has played in six events and made three cuts. It's not a blazing start, but he says he's getting better.

"I feel pretty good," Imada said. "I'm hitting the ball well, and I can tell I'm getting better and better. I love playing in this tournament. It's one of my favorites all year."

Imada has played in the Transitions three times, and he tied for second in 2008.

Coming down I-4: Eight players from Monday and Tuesday's Tavistock Cup in Orlando are in the Transitions field — Stuart Appleby, Arjun Atwal, Brian Davis, Trevor Immelman, Sean O'Hair, Retief Goosen, Peter Hanson and Justin Rose.

Senior coupons: To clear up confusion, those with Seniors Day coupons for tickets to the rounds Thursday and Friday must redeem them at the will call trailer, near Belcher and Klosterman roads.

Rodney Page can be reached at page@sptimes.com.

Tournament information

What: A 72-hole PGA Tour event

When/where: Thursday-Sunday; Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, Copperhead Course, Palm Harbor

Par/yards: 71; 7,340

Field: 144 players

Purse: $5.5 million (winner’s share is $990,000)

Fed Ex Cup points: 500

Defending champ: Jim Furyk

Schedule: Today — Pro-am. Thursday-Friday — first and second rounds, morning and afternoon tee times. Saturday-Sunday — third and fourth rounds. For tee times, visit transitionschampionship.com

Tickets: Available at Publix, transitionschampionship.com or (727) 942-5566. Cost is $30 per day (Thursday-Sunday) in advance, $40 at the gate and $89 for a weekly badge. Those 17 and younger and military personnel are admitted free all week.

TV: Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m., Golf Channel; Saturday-Sunday, 1-3 p.m., Golf Channel, 3-6 p.m., Ch. 8

Who is Martin Kaymer, and how did he become the No. 1 golfer in the world? 03/15/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 11:40pm]
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