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Martin Kaymer held on with three tough pars to close out THE PLAYERS. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – When rain and lightning interrupted the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship, Martin Kaymer’s victory seemed certain. He needed an improbable shot on golf’s most famous hole for a one-shot win, though.
Kaymer was three shots ahead when he stepped to the 15th tee. He missed his tee shot and approach left en route to double-bogey, though, and was just one shot ahead when he hit his tee shot at the island-green on 17. His first shot was just a few feet short, landing in the rough past the greenside bunker before nearly spinning off the front of the green. "To see it kick like that was a bit of a blow," said his caddie, Craig Connelly.
His chip shot had to curl around the bunker, but he left it 29 feet short. Kaymer was in danger of losing his one-shot lead, but made the bending 29-footer as darkness neared.
“I just played with a lot of instinct and there was a little bit of luck involved,” Kaymer said of a putt that will join Tiger Woods’ 'better than most' birdie in the island green’s lengthy lore. “It was a very strange way to make a 3.”
Kaymer sealed his first PGA TOUR victory since the 2010 PGA Championship with a 3-foot par putt at No. 18 that reminded him of his Ryder Cup-clinching 6-footer from 2012. Kaymer held at least a share of the lead after each round, starting with his course-record-tying 63 in the first round. He started the final round tied for the lead with Jordan Spieth, then shot 71 for a 13-under 275 total and one-shot win over Jim Furyk. Kaymer moved to No. 18 in the FedExCup.
“It’s always a little bit difficult when you come back out on the golf course,” he said.
Furyk was watching in the clubhouse as Kaymer made his save on 17.
“That up-and-down at 17, I know how hard that is living here,” Furyk said, “and that wasn't one that I would have expected him to get up-and-down very often percentage-wise, but that putt was incredible, to have a good eight feet of break in it and pour it right in the middle.”
Kaymer arrived at THE PLAYERS Championship at No. 61 in the Official World Golf Ranking. He briefly held the No. 1 spot in the wake of his 2010 PGA Championship win, but he struggled in the spotlight. This is his first worldwide win since the 2012 Nedbank Golf Challenge.