Martin Kaymer inspired at U.S. Open by 'The Legend of Bagger Vance'
Golf Culture U.S. Open

Martin Kaymer inspired at U.S. Open by ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’

Martin Kaymer might look unemotional, at times downright robotic, out on the golf course. That couldn't be further from the truth. Kaymer may well be a bit sappy if his choice in movies says anything about him.

After his third-round 72 at the 2014 U.S. Open, the leader by 5 shots talked about watching the 2000 film "The Legend of Bagger Vance" and its effect on his approach this week.

"I watched 'Bagger Vance' and at the end of the day we’re playing a game,” said Kaymer.

In the film, Will Smith plays Bagger Vance, a caddie who somewhat mysteriously enters the life of Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon) in 1931 Georgia. A World War I veteran, Junuh has become an alcoholic, symptomatic of suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, after his entire company is killed in a battle. Junuh has shunned the game he long loved before war, as well lost the affection of his former girlfriend Adele Invergordon (Charlize Theron).

The story unfolds as Invergordon inherits a golf course from her father, who committed suicide after going bankrupt. Facing financial ruin, Invergordon puts Junuh in a $10,000 match at the Savannah course against Walter Hagen and Georgia golf legend Bobby Jones. Reluctant at first to play, Junuh is encouraged by Invergordon and Vance, who fronts Junuh's rehabilitation into the man he was.

Over the course of match, Junuh battles himself as much as his opponents, finding his way into the heart of the competition with the advice and counsel of Vance and Invergordon. In the thick of the finish, Junuh calls a penalty on himself but recovers to end the match in a tie, but not before a satisfied Vance again disappears. The reborn Junuh reconciles with Invergordon.

The intended lesson, which Kaymer got, was that golf is a game to be played, felt, enjoyed, not controlled or beaten.

"We can’t control a lot of things that happen on the golf course," Kaymer said. "You have to play the game. And if you try to control your swing, if you try to control everything, which is a little bit the way I am as a person, I like to be in control of things."

But Kaymer reveled in his position standing on the 54th tee with a 4-shot lead. Then he made birdie to extend his lead going into the final 18.

"It’s about that feel, that touch, that you play with your heart, that you can’t control too many things and that’s what I was trying to do the last three years," Kaymer said of his struggles to again reach the pinnacle of the game.

“Now I just play.”

As Bagger Vance said, golf is "a game that can't be won, only played."

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