Martin Kaymer becomes the first European to win on TOUR in the 2013-14 season as he fired a final round 71 to win THE PLAYERS Championship on 13-under-par 275. His 42’ two-putt from just off the 18th green saw him avoid a playoff with Ponte Vedra Beach resident Jim Furyk. Spaniard Sergio Garcia finished one further shot back on 11-under 277 to claim third alone.
What was billed as a two-man race between co-54-hole leaders Martin Kaymer and Jordan Spieth turned into a duel between a man and his golf game. Kaymer, holding on to a three-shot lead with just an hour of daylight remaining, made some wonderfully bad and great shots in his final four holes. A flawless first 14 holes saw Kaymer see off his closest challengers as Spieth found the bogey train and couldn’t get off. The rest of the field had run out of holes or couldn’t hole any putts. But, after 93-minute rain delay, the wheels almost came off for the now 12-time winner worldwide. A double bogey on No. 15 after a handful of questionable shots shrank his lead to one over Jim Furyk. On 16, the third-easiest hole of the week, he could only manage a par on the five-par hole.
And then he took the walk to No. 17.
Standing on the tee with a one-shot lead, Kaymer did almost the unthinkable. His tee shot skipped off a mound above the front bunker, hit the middle of a ridge and spun wildly back towards the water. The rain delay that killed Kaymer’s momentum saved his life as the moisture from the heavens created just enough friction to cause his ball to stay on the green instead of finding the drink.
Problem No. 1 adverted.
Problem No. 2 was just beginning. His shot, while on dry land, was in the collar in the front, left part of the kidney-shaped green. His route to the traditional Sunday pin placement involved a huge ridge to carry and then downhill to the hole. He left his second shot 28 feet short. With a one-shot lead. On Sunday. Somehow, someway, as darkness was approaching, the German played six feet of downhill break perfectly and holed the putt for par. Can you believe it?
His final tee ball, just like the majority of them on the week, was piped down the center and while his second came up just short, he still found the nerve, one more time, to hole the final four-footer. His chances that were vanishing like the rescinding daylight came full circle as he holed his last four feet of putts for his second title on TOUR.
Kaymer opened the week with a course-record tying 63 on Thursday and never looked back. Much was made of young Spieth’s streak of 59 holes without a bogey on the week but the champion only made four. He was T3 in GIR and 19 in strokes gained-putting so there was plenty to like about the 2010 PGA winner’s game this week. Remember, he was the Euro who made the winning putt in the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medina and he won the PGA in a three-hole playoff so pressure to him was nothing new.
Season-long gamers know that Kaymer has never been one for their lineups as he’s been splitting time between the TOUR and the European Tour. Last year’s 17 starts were the most he’s ever played in the States. His success in majors, WGC and the Ryder Cup are well documented but what gets swept under the rug is how well he plays in Europe. Last year was the first year since 2007 that he didn’t win anywhere in the world. There are not many guys who can brag on that who are under 30.
His name came up in the chat on Wednesday afternoon and both Rob Bolton and I suggested that he could be in play this week as his quiet 2014 was rounding into shape. This “week” is the key because his value in long-term games is quite muted due to his limited schedule. Kaymer has now seen the weekend in all six of his tries at Sawgrass and none better than this. I couldn’t burn him this week in OAD because I had already cashed with him (T8) in China at the WGC-HSBC. Incidentally, that was his last top 10 on TOUR before his victory. Speaking of top 10s, Kaymer has racked up 12 top 10s since 2009 but only two of them, today’s win and T5 at the 2013 HPBNC are the only two not in majors or WGC events. His only two TOUR wins are the 2010 PGA and 2014 PLAYERS. #biggamehunter
Moving forward, it will be interesting to see where Kaymer’s career goes now that he’ll exempt for the next two years on TOUR. It feels like he’s been around forever but that’s because of his decorated amateur career and his explosion to world No.1 after winning the 2010 PGA Championship but let’s all remember that he doesn’t turn 30 until December.
With his victory, collects $1,800,000, 600 FedExCup Points, a three-year exemption to the Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and entry into the 2014 PGA Championship in addition to the last two WGC events and the HTOC. Oh, and he’s eligible for THE PLAYERS for the next five seasons. Don’t forget he also gets FIVE years on TOUR as well! #chaching
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 20 of 26 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar and J.B. Holmes have added trophies for the USA. Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed four victories along with South Korean Seung-yul Noh. After querying about the lack of Euro winners this season, Kaymer decides to break the duck by winning the biggest payday of them all!
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley and Matt Jones are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had seven in 26 events so far in 2014.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14, 14 of 25 leaders have gone on to win on Sunday as Kaymer and Spieth were co-leaders. I’ll always give credit to the winner for winning in this stat. Hey, it’s my rule!
Kaymer is the eight international player in the last 13 years to hoist the crystal trophy.
He is the fourth European to win this event joining Sandy Lyle (1987), Sergio Garcia (2008) and Henrik Stenson (2009).
He is the seventh player all-time to go wire-to-wire with the lead or share of the lead in all four rounds.
During his 63 on Thursday, Kaymer set the front-nine record with 29. #golowson
There still has never been a repeat champion at THE PLAYERS since it moved to TPC Sawgrass.
Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson remain the only players on TOUR with multiple wins this season.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Since the first major, Matt Kuchar (37) and J.B. Holmes (32) have also added to the Prime Timers.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22) all welcome Martin Kaymer, 29, to the twenty-something party!
Australian John Senden, 42, won at Tampa Bay for the only W for the “Old Guys” this season. For the second week in a row Jim Furyk needed the leader to miss a four-footer on the final hole to get into a playoff. He’s playing awfully well for an “old” guy. Another solid “oldie”, Lee Westwood, 41, continued his steady play with a T6 as well.