Years removed from a major championship win and a brief stint at No. 1 in the World Golf Ranking, Martin Kaymer has returned to the top of the PGA Tour heap with a win in the Tour's flagship event, the Players Championship at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.
It wasn't easy. Swing changes and poor play saw Kaymer plummet in the rankings; he entered this week at No. 61 and in the midst of a worldwide winless drought that dated to late 2012.
But blister-inducing work on the range and some valuable one-on-one time with countryman Bernhard Langer have brought him full circle, culminating with a win on Mother's Day that was made even more meaningful by memories of his mother, whom he lost to cancer six years ago. "To win on Mother's Day ... we show our parents way too little,” Kaymer said. “We always need some occasions to show them, which is what you realize when they're not there anymore. So to win on those days, it adds a little bit of a nice thing to the whole week. I think about her every day. I don't need a Mother's Day.”
There were tense moments down the stretch. A three-shot lead heading into a weather delay was trimmed to one after a double-bogey on 15, and Kaymer needed a semi-miraculous par save on the notorious par-3 17th to fend off Jim Furyk, who closed with a 66.
Don't expect Kaymer to rest on his hard-earned return to prominence.
“You don’t get to No. 1 in the world for no reason, and I think he appreciates the good things a little more now," said Kaymer's caddie Craig Connelly. "He’s a brand new Martin. He’s obviously a much-improved golfer, but the mindset is the old Martin.”
Here are the key numbers from the weekend at TPC Sawgrass.
28'6" Martin Kaymer's par-saving putt at the par-3 17 covered a circuitous 28 feet, six inches and featured about six feet of break. In other words, an answered prayer. Kaymer is the first player in the SHOTLink era of tracking measurements to make a putt from 28 feet or greater on his 71st hole of play and win the event by a stroke.
-17 Rory McIlroy played the back nine in a record 17-under this week on his way to a T6 finish. McIlroy birdied No. 18 all four days and in each of the final two rounds he birdied all three holes of The Gauntlet (Nos. 16-18).
5'11" Kaymer's underrated scrambling was a key part of his victory. In 10 trips to greenside bunkers over the four days, Kaymer averaged a proximity to the hole of five feet, 11 inches on his recovery shots, allowing him to convert seven of them successfully.
75 Kaymer found the green in regulation 75 percent of the time — 54 of 72 — to rank third in the field.
$54K With his third-place finish, Sergio Garcia moved within $54,000 of Tiger Woods on the all-time Players Championship money list. Garcia has made 11 consecutive cuts at the Players and won the event in 2008.
Here's Kaymer's tournament-clinching par save at 17.