By Samantha Pell
AP Sports Writer
SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — The chance to compete at the Olympics can’t come soon enough for Martin Kaymer.
While the top four players in the world and 21 men overall will not be part of the Rio Games, the 31-year-old German has been thinking about it all summer.
Calling out Michael Phelps and fellow German Dirk Nowitzki and as some of the best Olympians he wants to see and meet, Kaymer sounds as though he’s looking forward to going to Rio as much as his ongoing run at the PGA Championship.
Rio isn’t so much as distraction, rather a motivation.
“It is so, so, inspiring, and I really look forward to go, experience that, and I don’t know how I will feel,” Kaymer said. “I’m sure it’s going to take a couple weeks after that to reflect on all your experiences.”
Going to Rio has inspired Kaymer’s latest hot streak. He shot a 4-under 66 in the opening round on Thursday and followed with a 69 in the second round to reach 5 under.
The two-time major champion, birdied three of his last four holes Friday.
“I think I placed myself in a very good spot,” Kaymer said. “Who knows where the leader is going to be by the end of the day? I shot a good score yesterday, a very good round today. So it’s a good position to be in in a major championship.”
After his opening round on Thursday, Kaymer said he is looking forward to seeing the best athletes in their sports at the Olympics — and not only the Germans.
“I watched Lionel Messi a couple times when Barcelona played against Bayern Munich and I went to the stadium, just to see the class, the natural talent of an athlete, is amazing,” Kaymer said. “You know, you can work as hard as you want but you are never going to get there.”
Kaymer said especially Phelps has an invitation to come watch him play at Rio.
“He can walk inside the ropes, I’m sure,” he said. “That is just so great to watch them and just — sometimes it’s funny how good the athletes are. Because you compare yourself, how bad you are, because obviously you tried the sport, and I look forward to that.”
Kaymer went into this week at No. 51 in the world ranking, having not won since 2014.
Interestingly enough, it’s in the even-numbered years when Kaymer has played some of his best golf and 2016 is starting to look up after two promising rounds at Baltusrol.
“I’m more the kind of player who has some really nice highs in my career, and then I have some time to enjoy it again,” Kaymer said. “Then all of a sudden, you know, you create a little bit more inspiration from something, and then you play better again.”
In his first appearance of 2008, Kaymer won the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and then added a win in his homeland at the BMW International Open.
In 2010, Kaymer won his first major — the PGA Championship — after he won a three-hole playoff over Bubba Watson.
One of Europe’s heroes in 2012, Kaymer made a 6-foot putt on the last hole at the Ryder Cup to defeat Steve Stricker and secure the last point needed to achieve a stunning comeback and retain the Ryder Cup.
In 2014, Kaymer dominated at Pinehurst No. 2 for an eight-shot victory in the U.S. Open, one month after winning The Players Championship against the strongest and deepest field in golf. Kaymer joined Tiger Woods as the only players to win a U.S. Open, PGA Championship, Players Championship and WGC event before their 30th birthday.
“I think in general, you grow, not only as a golf player but as a person, as well, and through that success, through the two major wins that I had, I think you grow a lot more,” Kaymer said. “You take things a little bit more — you value them a little bit more, and therefore, somehow it calms me down.”
After struggling in the first part of the 2016 season, Kaymer is headed into the weekend rounds at the PGA Championship back on the upswing.