September 19, 2014
Kaymer putt brings glory
Since 2001, the iconic definition of the Island Hole at the TPC Sawgrass has been television announcer Gary Koch’s excited, “better than most”, pronouncement as Tiger Woods rolled in a sixty-foot downhill birdie putt on route to his first Players Championship.
In the vast Ponte Vedra clubhouse the scene is even memorialized in an oil painting. Well, Sunday late evening Martin Kaymer pushed that moment into second spot in the all-time ratings.
Not just because Woods extraordinary stroke took place with 19 more holes to play and Kaymer, playing his 71st hole, appeared on the verge of throwing away a tournament he’d dominated from Thursday, after a record-tying 63.
Sunday afternoon Kaymer lost the lead just once, midway through the front nine, when 20-year-old Jordan Spieth seemed on the verge of out-duelling the 29-year-old German who hadn’t won anywhere since 2012.
But Spieth, who went bogey-free for 58 holes was first to tilt, never recovering from a fiendish bounce at the 10th, when a seemingly perfect wedge approach hit middle green then bounded sideways into a deep swale.
Unable to save par, the super-talented youngster’s chase was blunted. Two more bogeys at the 14th and 15th, back-to-backed around a 90 minute rain delay, and he slipped out of the title hunt. With Jim Furyk (66) in at 12-under, Kaymer at 15-under with four to play seemed a trot-home winner.
But the Kaymer who returned after the delay was a different player. Double-bogey from an errant tee shot at the 15th reduced his margin to one and the 2010 PGA Champion came to the 17th tee in the same position.
What happened next was crazy strange. First Kaymer’s wedge tee shot took a savage bounce sideways left, then spun back half the length of the green to the fluffy front fringe mere inches from the water.
From there an almost unimaginably difficult approach, over ninety feet, most of it uphill, into the grain, but then swirling right and fast down-grain on the final run in. Oh, and add this from this front of the green one can’t really see the cup, just the flagstick etched in the sky, the player fearfully aware that a tad too hard could mean a watery grave. No surprise Kaymer left that chip almost thirty feet short.
Then the miracle, the shot that causes many to believe there are golf gods who determine these things. Believe what you like, the chances of Kaymer ever making this putt again under that same amount of pressure are tiny. But there it rolled, all 29 feet of it, breaking six or more feet to the right, closer, closer, more right, than dead centre of the bucket. Par. A 1.8 million dollar par save. “That putt was incredible,” said runner-up Furyk. Yes it was, Jim, yes it was.
This victory also means under recently-announced World Golf Hall of Fame revised criteria which treat The Players as a major, Martin Kaymer is already eligible for nomination. Now that’s incredible.