Martin Kaymer holds on to win Players Championship
German bags US$1.8 million prize with nervy one-shot victory in 'fifth major'
Martin Kaymer withstood an early challenge by Jordan Spieth, a weather delay and a late wobble to clinch his second PGA Tour title with a nervy one-shot victory at the US$10 million Players Championship on Sunday.
The German, co-leader overnight with American playing partner Spieth, produced rock-solid golf to move briefly four strokes clear, then survived a double-bogey on 15 as he closed with a one-under-par 71 at the challenging TPC Sawgrass.
Kaymer, whose previous win on the US circuit came with his play-off success at the 2010 PGA Championship, nervously parred the last three holes in gathering gloom to post a 13-under total of 275.
The 29-year-old from Dusseldorf lined up a par putt from just under four feet on the 18th green, stroked the ball into the cup and then looked heavenwards in relief before pumping his right fist in celebration.
“It’s very special for me,” Kaymer told Golf Channel. “It is always very difficult to come back after a little [weather] break.
“Obviously you see the leaderboard, you see where you are. The first 14 holes, I played really, really well. And then you are really disappointed when they called it [halted play].
“And then you are a little cold. I made a couple of wrong decisions on 15, but a big putt on 17,” said Kaymer, who won US$1.8 million.
Kaymer held a one-stroke lead when his tee shot on 17 narrowly cleared the water, bounced off a mound and span sideways hard until settling just a couple of feet short of the water on the fringe of the green.
From there, Kaymer, looking for first victory since the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa at the end of 2012, hit a poor chip and was left with a 28-foot putt which had to negotiate a ridge with a sharp left-to-right break.
Somehow he managed to coax the ball into the cup in fading light before going on to par the final hole and clinch victory by one shot over American Jim Furyk.
"What a putt on 17," Kaymer said with a broad grin. "It was very, very tough to read because it was already very dark. But I don’t care anymore, it went in.
"It was downhill, down-grain, but at the end of the day, you just trust your instinct. You pick a line approximately there and there. It was three-and-a-half feet [of break], left-to-right putt, but you need the right line and the right speed.
"So there’s always some luck involved, but it was a good putt."
Spieth, who at 20 was aiming to become the youngest champion at the prestigious PGA Tour event widely regarded as the unofficial fifth major, briefly led by a shot early in the final round before fading to a 74 and a tie for fourth at 10 under.
Spieth has already piled up an impressive list of achievements since the start of his sensational debut season on the 2013 PGA Tour but that counted for little for him on Sunday as he reflected on yet another wasted opportunity.
"I’m stinging right now," said the American, who won his maiden title on the US circuit at the John Deere Classic in July on the way to a spot on the US Presidents Cup team and securing rookie of the year honours.
"It’s not fun being that close and having opportunities and being in the lead on Sunday and not pulling it off. It’s something that I don’t feel like I’ve struggled with throughout my whole career, going back to junior days.
"So I don’t think much of it [career success], other than I didn’t have any of my best stuff. I’m disappointed right now in how I performed, but, you know, I think I’m on the path to good things."
Level with Spieth was US Open champion Justin Rose (69), whose two-stroke penalty imposed after the third round was rescinded earlier in the day following a review by the game’s governing bodies and PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem.
American Jim Furyk signed off with a flawless six-birdie 66 to secure outright second place at 12 under, one stroke better than Spaniard Sergio Garcia (70).
“I did what I could,” Furyk said. “I left it all on the golf course, and I hung it all out there today.”
Adam Scott fell well short in his bid to become world number one for the first time this week, closing with a 73 that included three bogeys and two birdies.
When the Australian signed his card, he was in a tie for 39th, having needed to finish no worse than joint 16th to have a chance of dislodging the absent Tiger Woods from the top spot.