By Mark Lamport-Stokes
BETHESDA, Maryland (Reuters) - Germany's Martin Kaymer made sure he kept a close eye on the NBA Finals, and especially the stellar performances of his compatriot Dirk Nowitzki, while preparing for this week's U.S. Open.
"Obviously it was huge for him (Nowitzki) and for basketball in Germany as well," a smiling Kaymer told reporters at Congressional Country Club on Monday. "That was the only championship that he hadn't gotten yet. I hope those things will help to grow sports in my country.
"It's a little bit unfortunate that he doesn't get the recognition in Germany that he deserves. Basketball is not very big in Germany but in America he's a superstar ... one of the best NBA players they have."
Nowitzki, the most successful European of all time in the NBA, was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the Finals after averaging 26 points per game.
The 32-year-old produced six 30-plus scoring games during the playoffs as Dallas ended three decades of frustration by capturing their first NBA championship.
"Unfortunately I have never met him," world number three Kaymer said of the 7-foot Nowitzki. "But that is one of my goals, to go to a game of the Dallas Mavericks and to meet him.
"For me, he's a big role model ... the way he comes across in the media, the way he's acting on the basketball court. What Dirk did last night ... and pretty much since he's been in America since '98, I think it's amazing.
"He came here with pretty much nothing and made his way up there to become one of the best players ever in the NBA. You should have a lot of respect for that."
"There's a bigger picture for sure. At the end of the day, you're still thinking about the tournaments, it's not about the world rankings."
While Kaymer has played in only three U.S. Opens, his impressive tie for eighth at Pebble Beach last year proved he has adjusted well to the doggedly patient approach always required in the season's second major.
"In normal, regular tournaments you need to play fairly aggressive from the first day on," he said. "But at the majors, it's important to avoid the big mistakes.
"It's easy to kick yourself out of the tournament on Friday, so it's all about giving yourself a chance on Sunday to win the tournament, to put yourself in position and be really patient with that.
"(At the U.S. Open), patience is the biggest key. It will be always a long week and very tiring because the golf course is so tough. It's tough to play and mentally very difficult so it's important to rest, as well."
The 111th U.S. Open starts on Thursday.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)