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Kaymer returns to the big time - Wins the Players Championship

By: Golf Shake | Mon 12 May 2014

Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements

Out of the darkness came the blinding flash of light that proved Martin Kaymer is back. In almost pitch black conditions, the German put a nightmare couple of years behind him to win the Players Championship at Sawgrass, but only after the Martin Kaymermost gut-wrenching of finishes, during which he nearly threw it all away.

Kaymer had the tournament and its $1.8m first prize in his back pocket when a weather delay forced him off the course with just four holes to play. Up ahead on the 18th green, Jim Furyk had to return to hole a three-foot putt that saw him finish with a 66 and a 12 under par total of 276.

Kaymer was three ahead when he returned to the course, but a fluffed pitch followed by a poor bunker shot led to a double bogey at the 15th and suddenly his lead was reduced to one.

Furyk decided that he was going nowhere and sat in front of a television set to watch the drama unfold. And what drama it was.

The German missed the par-five 16th green to the left with his second shot. He was fully 20 feet away from the putting surface and, inexplicably, chose to use his putter. He left the ball 30 feet short of the hole, missed the birdie putt and trudged to the par-three 17th, with its island green, thinking goodness knows what.

He hit what looked liked a perfect tee shot but it caught the mound on the back of the bunker and the ball spun back, looking for all the world like it had to finish in the water. Unbelievably, it came to rest in the collar of grass at the side of the green. Kaymer was hugely relieved, but he still faced an incredibly difficult pitch.

He failed to hit it hard enough and, left with a downhill, left to right putt, measuring fully 30 feet, it seemed that we were watching his challenge fal apart. But, from somewhere, he found the resolve to force the putt home and went to the last needing a par to win.

Kaymer was playing with Jordan Spieth, whose own challenge faltered badly, but it is a mark of the class of the young American that as he arrived on the 18th tee he patted his playing partner on the shoulder and told him what a great putt it was that he had just holed.

His final drive split the fairway, but his approach with an eight iron came up 15 feet short of the green. Again, Kaymer chose to putt, but this time he left the ball a couple of feet away and, with darkness engulfing the scene, he holed the putt for a 13-under-par winning total.

Kaymer won the US PGA championship and then decided he needed to rebuild his swing. It was a move that surprised most onlookers, but he said that he felt he couldn't compete consistently at the highest level unless he could move the ball both ways at will. The German will now feel vindicated.

Sergio Garcia finished third, one shot ahead of Spieth. And there were also top 10 finishes for US Open champion Justin Rose and for Rory McIlroy, who will be left to reflect on a poor second round in which he nearly missed the cut. McIlroy is nearly back to his best, but every time he plays there seems to be one shocking round in four and he needs to find a way to eliminate that - and soon.

The arguments will rage on about whether this really should be regarded as golf's "fifth major" or whether it is simply a tournament played on a tricked-up course.

Your correspondent has expressed the view on more than one occasion that if there is ever to be a fifth major then it must be staged in Australia. Sure, The Players boasts a great field and offers huge prize money, but that doesn't make a major. And Sawgrass is not and never will be a golf course fit to stage one of the game's most prestigious prizes.
But you can't argue with the drama it provides every year, especially on the 16th, 17th and 18th holes.

And this year's instalment was no less thrilling than usual. Kaymer opened with a 63, was still leading after 36 holes and maintained his hold on the lead after 54 holes, albeit sharing it with the amazing Spieth.

Astonishingly, Spieth got through 54 holes without dropping a single shot to par. This was not because he played great golf. It was because he a had a host of very lucky breaks and proved that his short game is second to none. Just when it seemed certain he would drop a shot at the final hole on Saturday, he dug deep to drain a 12-foot putt for par.

And so Spieth and Kaymer set off in the final round, locked together at 12 under par.

Rose picked up three shots on the front nine to challenge them, but then dropped shots at the 10th, 11th and 12th. Jimmy Walker set Sawgrass alight, racing to the turn in 32 - and that included a bogey. The three-time winner then had an eagle at the par-five 11th, a birdie at the 13th and another at the 16th to go eight under for his round and 10 under for the tournament, but dropped a shot at the last.

But this always looked like a two-horse race. And Spieth adged ahead when he birdied the second and fourth holes to move to 14 under. Kaymer, who also birdied the second, was one adrift.

Then Spieth dropped his first shot of the week at the fifth and before he knew where he was, two more had gone. Yet again, however, he came in with another top 10 finish and more Ryder Cup and FedEx Cup points.

In the end, it was Furyk's 66 that got everybody's attention and if only he had holed his birdie putt on the 18th, then who knows what might have happened?

Derek Clements is a sports journalist with a particular passion for golf with over 12 years of experience covering golf and other sports including Chief Sub-Editor on the sports desk of The Sunday Times. To contact Derek email direct via [email protected]

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Tags: PGA Tour Martin Kaymer

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