Like a fine German automobile, Martin Kaymer was cruising as he lined up his putt on the 14th green at TPC Sawgrass on Sunday. After all, he had a 3-shot lead and his biggest threat, Jim Furyk, was running out of holes. Then the horn sounded, stopping play because of threatening weather in the Ponte Vedra Beach area of Florida, and suddenly the “slippery when wet” signs appeared out of nowhere. When play began 90 minutes later, what was once a runaway turned into a tension-filled sports reality show. In the end, however, Kaymer would weather the storm and bang in a knee-knocker on the final hole for a 1-stroke victory in The Players Championship.
When play resumed after the delay, Kaymer seemed more affected than anyone else. After pulling his drive on No. 15 into the trees on the right, he pitched up left of the green on the par-4 and then fluffed his chip into the sand trap. Three strokes later he would settle for a double bogey and his once-comfortable lead had shrunk to just one over Furyk, who had knocked in a 3-footer for par on 18 just moments after play had begun again. “Obviously it was tough for me,” said Kaymer about the delay, “to start out with a double bogey was not the ideal start.”
Much credit should be given to the 29-year-old German, though, in a situation where many would have folded in a big even like The Players Championship. Still to play, following the disastrous 15th hole, were three of the hardest holes on the course. Missing a birdie opportunity and settling for par on 16, he headed for the famous “island green” on No. 17 where he was handed a bad break and a good break at the same time. His tee shot caught the collar of the front of the green and took a sideways kick, with backspin, that almost sent the ball all the way back into a watery grave. The long grass on the fringe of the green just held it in play but left Kaymer a long way from the pin. A poorly judged chip shot left him a 30-foot putt with 12-15 feet of break, for par, as darkness was settling in on the golf course. “It was very, very tough to read because it was already very dark…but, you know, I don’t care anymore because it went in.” It may prove to be one of the greatest moments, outside of Tiger Woods’ “Better than most” putt, in the history of the 17th green at Sawgrass. A par on 18 as Furyk watched from the scorer’s tent sent Kaymer to his first big victory on the PGA Tour since his win at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in 2010.
Kaymer began the day tied at 12-under with Jordan Spieth, but the expected battle for The Players Championship between the two never really materialized. After both golfers made birdie on the par-5 second hole, Spieth actually took the lead temporarily with a birdie at No. 4. Bogeys at the fifth and eighth holes, combined with a Kaymer birdie on No. 9 gave Kaymer a two-stroke lead at the turn and Spieth never threatened on the back nine.
Jim Furyk took the runner-up prize at The Players Championship, finishing at 12-under par. Sergio Garcia was a factor once again in a big tournament, closing with a 2-under par 70 and taking third at 11-under. Spieth and Justin Rose were tied for fourth at 10-under par.
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Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky