Expecting a shootout between Germany’s Martin Kaymer and the USA’s PGA Tour wunderkind Jordan Spieth, fans surrounded the first hole from tee to green, five deep when the two approached for their 2:35 tee time. Kaymer ripped it 310 yards down the middle. Spieth hit it in the right rough.
A chink in the armor? You might have thought so, but actually Spieth took the lead with a birdie on 4 to go to -13. And that was it. Kaymer inherited a share of the lead after Speith bogeyed 8 and then took the lead for good at nine with a birdie out of the bunker while Spieth’s second shot in the rough forced him to settle for par.
Kaymer had it to 15 under before play was suspended while he was playing the 14th hole forcing a 91-minute delay because of lightning. That changed the fabric of the end of the tournament, with Kaymer and Spieth, along with Sergio Garcia and Francisco Molinari among the contenders finishing in front of just a smattering of fans.
The golf course yielded some low scores among those not contending. Former champ K.J. Choi shot a 65 and finished the tournament at -7. Rory McIlroy’s crazy experiences here at The Players continued, shooting a 66 on the final day to finish at -9. McIlroy shot 31 on the back, birdieing 16, 17 and 18 to continue his great play at the Stadium course on holes with double digits.
“Overall it looks like another back door top 10 but it’s getting close. I’m playing solid, things are headed in the right direction.”
McIlroy played the back nine in 17 under this week, but 8 over on the front hurt his chances. “I feel very comfortable on the back nine here; and just played the front nine a little better (today) and ended up shooting a lower score.”
The leading money winner on tour, Jimmy Walker opened on Thursday with a 75 and was wondering if he’d make the cut or not when he teed off Friday. Instead, Walker shot 65 on the final day for a top ten finish, including an eagle on eleven.
“I was running and gunning,” he said after his round. Make a couple of birdies, and if the wind picks up and the storm starts to maybe come in, you never know what could happen.”
As the top ranked player, Walker is having some new experiences at tournaments and he said it’s making him change his game a bit.
“It makes me feel like I need to keep the pedal down. Sure would be good to be number one at the end of September so that’s what we’re trying to do.”
After the rain delay, Kaymer certainly made it interesting, making double bogey from the left trees on 15 and taking a one-shot lead to the final three holes. A par on 16 didn’t give him much cushion over Furyk who was doing interviews in the rain while waiting to see what might happen.
“I’ve struggled at this golf course,” Furyk told us while after making a 2½ foot putt to finish at 66. My results haven’t been nearly as good as I would have liked. It’s fun to play well in front of friends and family.”
Meanwhile, Kaymer hit the strangest shot on 17, just clearing the bunker and spinning back to the high rough in the front of the green. A short chip left him with a long par putt that he poured right in the middle of the cup to maintain a one shot lead and continue the drama.
“It was hard to read because it was getting a little dark,” he said afterwards. “But it went in and it’s on the card so I’m happy.”
Two shots on 18 put Kaymer on the front of the green with just under 50 feet to the hole. Two putts would win the title for him and Kaymer thought back to the putt he made to win the Ryder Cup last year.
“I was walking up there thinking that one of the best players in the world should be able to make it in two putts to win.” He admitted the just over 3 footer he had left was no easy roll for the victory. “It was left to right and downhill and I was thinking, ‘Just go in’ and it did.”
Kaymer was incredibly gracious in the awards ceremony, thanking the fans for being “fair, even though I was playing an American the last couple of days.” He admitted the opening round 63 put a lot of pressure on him for the rest of the week. But said playing with Jordan Spieth really helped him.
“He’s a good guy, and a really good player for someone so young. You have a great player to watch for a lot of years to come.”
“When you shoot that low score on Thursday, everybody expects you to win,” Kaymer explained. “You expect to finish high, there’s just a lot of pressure.”
Interestingly enough, Kaymer was 12 under through 36 holes in this year’s Players, and won at -13 under, the fourth consecutive year that score was good enough to win.
He also thanked the volunteers and reminded everybody to be nice to their mom, not just on Mothers Day. He’s a good player, and proved over the last four days he’s a pretty good guy too.