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No superstar status for world new No 1

(China Daily)
Updated: 2011-03-01 09:18
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No superstar status for world new No 1

BERLIN - Golfer Martin Kaymer looks to have the same drive, determination and mental strength as former tennis champions Steffi Graf, Boris Becker and seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher.

But unlike his fellow German athletes, Kaymer's own rise to the top of his sport, before he took over as world No 1 from Britain Lee Westwood on Monday, has largely gone unnoticed in his home country.

Whereas Becker, Graf and Schumacher captivated Germans with their exploits on the courts and the racing tracks, boosting their sports' popularity to new heights, Kaymer has quietly risen up the rankings, enjoying only occasional coverage.

Where the others had TV spots, front pages and fly-on-the-wall coverage of their events, Kaymer is much more low profile, never making it on the best-selling Bild newspaper's front page.

Kaymer has not been back to Germany for any length of time since clinching his first major title at last year's PGA Championship, but he hopes to raise his sport's profile there even more now that he has become world No 1.

"In Germany, it's very difficult to get (fan) respect and recognition because we have only soccer and Formula One which are pretty big," the 26-year-old said.

"And as a golf player, you barely get recognized at all. I'm trying to do what Steffi Graf and Boris Becker did in tennis. If we can do the same with golf in Germany, that would be very nice."

The US PGA champion's head-spinning climb to the top of the rankings has made him one of the hottest properties in golf and he has now emulated his role model and compatriot Bernhard Langer, who was 29 when he became the first official world No 1 in 1986.

Only recently, however, a German consultancy firm was hired to help boost Kaymer's profile domestically with a series of media events before last year's Ryder Cup as his image within the country was lagging behind his international success.

"There has been a need to push his image in Germany a bit. He does not seem to have the coverage he deserves," a media expert, who has been involved in the golfer's effort to boost his image, said on condition of anonymity.

The soft-spoken Kaymer almost chose soccer as a profession before switching his focus to golf as a 16-year-old. Last year, he won four European Tour titles before ending 2010 as that circuit's No 1 player.