Martin Kaymer, in the evening at TPC Sawgrass, winner of The Players Championship, author of a comeback tale, called it "a good day."
Considering the weather, the golf course, his nerves, his double-bogey on No. 15, his miracle par on No. 17, and his journey from No. 1 in the world and major champion to forgotten schlub and 61st-ranked player in the world to winner of the Players on Mother's Day, six years past since his beloved mother passed away, it was more than a good day.
It was an amazing day for Martin Kaymer.
Kaymer is only 29 years old, which means he has a ton of good golf left in him. He's already done things most players could only dream of. He's won a major – the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits that most of you remember as Dustin Johnson's Waterloo. He's been No. 1 in the world – for eight weeks back in early 2011, when he was just 26 years old, the second-youngest player, at that time, to be The Big Kahuna other than Tiger Woods. And now he's won a Players Championship, which comes with a cornucopia of goodies – a five-year Tour exemption, three-year exemptions to the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open, not to mention heading to the ATM Monday morning to deposit $1.8 million.
In Ice Cube's epic rap tome, "It Was A Good Day," he was sated by the simplest of things, including a Lakers win over the SuperSonics. In Martin Kaymer's "It Was A Good Day," the $1.8 mil might make the list, too.
And yet, it was a compelling win by the German for a number of reasons.
There was his personal road from king of the world to forgotten man, and his attempt to reclaim relevance. He hadn't won in the States since Whistling Straits, and you'd be forgiven if you forgot Kaymer had a tee time these days. He hasn't won anywhere since a win on the Sunshine Tour in 2012 in South Africa.
There was also his Sunday drama. Dueling against 20-year-old American wunderkind Jordan Spieth, Kaymer knew the home crowd was pulling for the Yank. But a player who decided to retool his swing at the peak of his craft three years ago only to lose all his mojo, finally found his swing reliable under pressure, and played 14 holes of 3-under golf at Pete Dye's diabolical contraption called TPC Sawgrass.
Then came the weather delay.
Ninety-one minutes of suspended play let all the demons that golf provides, free of charge, settle into his brain. He must have thought about the significance of the potential win, and how it would announce his comeback, and the importance to his career, and how he couldn't let nerves get the best of him and, yes, he must have thought of his mother, whom he commemorates with a sunflower on his golf bag. It was her favorite flower.
So, as sure as golf is a four-letter word, Kaymer wobbled. He made an absolute mess of the 15th hole right after the weather delay. He hooked his drive. He made the wrong play and missed the green. He caught his third heavy and left it in a bunker. He blasted out, lying four on the par-4, 40 feet away. He two-putted for a double bogey and saw his three-shot lead over Jim Furyk fade to one.
Kaymer could probably feel his world crumbling, which is why he waffled on his third shot on No. 16, changing his chip from a wedge to a putter, leaving it short, barely saving par.
And then came No. 17, and then came a bit of providence.
On perhaps the PGA Tour's most famous hole not found at Pebble Beach or Augusta National, he saw his tee shot to the island green barely clear the water, ricochet oddly off a mound, and suck back towards the water – only to be saved by a collar of rough. He had to pull a miracle to make an up-and-down from there, and when he left his chip 30 feet short, nobody believed.
Except golf is golf. It is pain, and it is magic.
Somehow, Kaymer curled the 30-footer, with about 10 feet of break, into the cup. He saved par. He kept his one-shot lead. He pumped his fist. He would win the Players Championship.
His comeback was complete.
Asked by Roger Maltbie the significance of winning on Mother's Day, Kaymer paused and tried to gather himself. He told of a text from his brother Sunday morning. He didn't reveal the words of the text. He didn't have to. He said it was emotional, and that it was a good day. It was.
SCORECARD OF THE WEEK
70-68-72-66 – 12-under 276, Jim Furyk, second place, The Players Championship, TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Something is becoming quite apparent: Jim Furyk is alive and well.
Here's a guy who most snarky golf pundits – not that I know any – had written off two years ago as done, finished, finite, past his expiration date, yesterday's news, adios, muchacho.
If it wasn't Furyk blowing the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic with three bogeys in his final six holes, it was Furyk blowing the 2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with a final-hole double bogey. If it wasn't Furyk blowing the 2012 Ryder Cup with a bogey-bogey finish to blow a 1-up lead over Sergio Garcia, it was Furyk going since September 2010 without a PGA Tour win.
And yet, the man who turns 44 on Monday is having the sort of season his fellow soon-to-be 44-year-old, his old Pac-10 rival Phil Mickelson, wishes he were having. As Lefty missed the cut at Sawgrass, calling himself mentally "soft," Furyk turned in a Sunday 66 and put microwave-style heat on Kaymer from the clubhouse.
Furyk would come up one stroke short, but this is the second week in a row a Sunday charge from Furyk caused him to hang around in the clubhouse to watch the proceedings on TV, lest there be a playoff. Last week at Quail Hollow, Furyk's Sunday 65 caused J.B. Holmes considerable perspiration before Holmes held him off.
So now, we're left to reconsider Furyk and his competitive drive. He was in the mix at the Masters until his Sunday 75, and still finished tie-14th. He has five top-10s this year. With everyone focused on Philly Mick's chance for a Grand Slam at Pinehurst next month, perhaps we should remember that Jim Furyk, bald as a cue ball, funky swing and all, still with Fluff on the bag, will come to the U.S. Open as a heavyweight.
BROADCAST MOMENT OF THE WEEK
"Is this the longest routine in the history of 2½-footers?" – Dan Hicks, NBC, discussing Furyk's post-rain delay study of a par putt on 18.
When the weather horn blew, Furyk had that 30-incher for par and a Sunday 66. But the weather horn blew. So Furyk had 91 minutes to think about that 2½-footer. And when Furyk knew play was about to begin, he went back out to the green, placed his ball and waited for the horn to blow, while studying his putt … and reading his putt … and standing over his putt … and reading his putt again … and studying his putt again … and standing over his putt again …
It was a remarkable display of either A) a consummate professional leaving nothing to chance; or B) a guy with some issues trying to work through a few things.
Even Luke Donald, who finished tie-38th, watching on TV, tweeted out: "I don't think I've ever seen a guy grind over a 2-footer as long as Furyk just did!"
Oh, Furyk made the putt. Practice makes perfect.
MULLIGAN OF THE WEEK
In some ways, I don't want to give Martin Kaymer a mulligan for his failed third shot on the 15th hole on Sunday. His terrible flop into the bunker set up his double bogey and created the kind of adversity that made his Sawgrass triumph so sweet.
But some things must be said.
Kaymer's third, a wedge from heavy, wet rough, was a deceleration special and left him with a bunker shot that he would not leave close. His two-putt would be a double-bogey "6," and it was time for the antacid for Kaymer and his entourage.
So to make things a little cleaner, let's go back out to that 15th hole, remind Kaymer a 91-minute rain delay has made Sawgrass' rough moist and damp and heavy, and that winning golf tournaments is not for the meek, and to remind him to get through that chip shot to cruise home in style and … give that man a mulligan!
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
We are now four tournaments away from the U.S. Open, and two tournaments away from the Memorial, so let's do a little Texas two-step and head to the Byron Nelson and the Colonial in the next two weeks.
Jordan Spieth has been the name on the tips of all golf fans' tongues this year, since his near-miss at the Masters and his near-miss at Sawgrass – all of which means the 20-year-old is the nearest thing to a sure bet in his home state, at the home event where he first made his name as a 16-year-old.
The defending champion is Sang-Moon Bae, but the presence of Jason Dufner, Matt Kuchar and Keegan Bradley will give Spieth some competition. The only thing hotter in Texas than Jordan Spieth is the first-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns, and don't be surprised if Johnny Football finds his way into the VIP tent at some point.
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