Kaymer hangs on at The Players

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Kaymer hangs on at The Players

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Martin Kaymer of Germany celebrates with caddie Craig Connelly after winning The Players Championship on Sunday at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. [AP/NEWSIS]

Martin Kaymer produced one of the most unlikely pars on the 17th green at the TPC Sawgrass without ever going in the water. It carried him to a one-shot victory Sunday in The Players Championship that was emotional in so many ways.

Kaymer nearly conceded a three-shot lead after a 90-minute rain delay, until he holed a 30-foot par putt on the famous island green. He got up-and-down with his putter from short of the 18th green for one last par and a 1-under 71.

Jim Furyk closed with a 66 - he had to wait after the rain delay to rap in a 3-foot par putt - and it looked as though it might be enough to force a playoff or even win outright when the 29-year-old German began to crumble. Furyk had to settle for runner-up for the second straight week.

Jordan Spieth, who was tied with Kaymer going into the final round, made his first bogey of the tournament on the fifth hole, and plenty more followed. He closed with a 74.

The typical stress that Sawgrass brings on Sunday was contained to the final hour, and it was almost more than Kaymer could take. The German made double bogey from an aggressive play behind a pine tree on the 15th. He nervously chose a putter from a collection area on the par-5 16th that cost him a chance at birdie.

Nothing could top the 17th hole, the most exciting on the Stadium Course.

Kaymer had a one-shot lead. His tee shot cleared the water and landed on a mound just over the bunker, but it mysteriously spun hard back toward the front of the green and looked as if it might go into the water until it settled into the clumpy collar a foot from the bulkhead. His chip was weak, and he still had 30 feet down a ridge with a sharp swing to the right. He made the putt, pumping his fist in a rare show of emotion.

His putt from the fairway on 18 settled three feet behind the hole, and Kaymer was as much relieved as excited when he knocked it in.

A former world No. 1 and major champion, Kaymer nearly choked up when asked about winning on Mother’s Day. His mother, Rina, died of cancer in 2008 shortly after Kaymer won the BMW International Open in Germany.

He has a sunflower - her favorite flower - on his golf bag.

“My mother was always there to be affectionate and show us love,” Kaymer said in a taped interview with NBC Sports. “When my mom passed away, that stopped. We had enough when we were younger. Mother’s Day is always a nice day. I hope a lot of kids show their mothers we love them.”

Interviewed on the 18th green, so dark that the clubhouse was glowing from the outdoor lights, Kaymer said brother Phillip sent him a text that morning which he described as “very emotional.”

“It’s a good day for all of us,’’ he said.

Kaymer finished at 13-under 275 and joined an elite group by winning the biggest event on golf’s strongest tour. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott are the only other players to win a major, a World Golf Championship and The Players Championship.

Sergio Garcia made a strong run until he hit into the water on the par-5 11th and lost momentum by missing too many putts. He closed with a 70 to finish alone in third at 11 under.

AP


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