DUBAI (Reuters) - Tiger Woods deserves to be given more respect for his huge contribution to golf while he seeks to return to winning ways, world number two Martin Kaymer said.
Woods, the greatest player of his generation and arguably of all time, struggled through a winless 2010 campaign as he spent much of the season unsuccessfully trying to repair his marriage and undergoing the fourth swing change of his career.
The 14-times major champion, who was world number one for more than five years, has slipped to third in the rankings and tees up at this week’s Dubai Desert Classic looking to end a 14-month title drought.
“Tiger shouldn’t be getting a hard time,” Kaymer, who has been grouped with Woods for the opening two rounds, told reporters.
“I have a lot of respect for him, all of the things that he did and we should be very thankful for what he’s done for golf.
“Everybody knows he is struggling a little bit at the moment with his game. But let him sort out a few things in his private life so that we can see more of people taking pictures of him on Sunday afternoons.”
Organizers of the Dubai Desert Classic have grouped the world’s top three players — number one Lee Westwood, Kaymer and Woods for the opening two rounds of the event.
It will be the first time Kaymer has competed alongside Woods, a player he first admired in watching television coverage of the American’s 12-shot victory in the 1997 U.S. Masters.
“I have wanted to play alongside Tiger since ‘97 when I saw him win the Masters,” the German said.
“It was pretty much one of the first tournaments I watched, and I’ve been playing golf since I was 15. To see the best player in the world winning a tournament like that was quite an inspiration and a motivation.”
Woods won the Dubai Desert Classic in 2006 and 2008 and Kaymer hoped the American would mount a good challenge this time too.
“It would be nice to go head-to-head with him on Sunday, and I would love to see that,” he said.
“But really it would just be nice if he could get back to where he was, where every week he has the chance to win.
Kaymer was speaking after attending Monday’s Laureus Sports Awards in nearby Abu Dhabi where he was given the ‘Breakthrough of the Year’ award.
“Getting the Laureus Award was probably the greatest award I ever got,” said Kaymer, who last year won the U.S. PGA Championship and the European No. 1 title and was a member of the winning Ryder Cup team.
“To be in the same room with all the athletes, actors, celebrities, my manager and I, were just looking around, talking about the people there, and thinking how cool it is to be in the same room as them.
“And then being on the stage, and to look down and see people like Boris Becker, huge role models, and here I am standing on the stage talking about my life, my career, it must have been a little strange for people to listen to me.”
Editing by Sonia Oxley; To comment on this story: email@example.com