Kaymer holds on to claim Players title

DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer Published:

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Martin Kaymer never lost sight of opportunity even amid so much evidence of trouble in the closing stretch Sunday at The Players Championship.

A bad chip led to double bogey. A bad decision cost him a chance at birdie. With his lead suddenly down to one shot, he watched his ball soar against the gray sky toward the scariest island in golf and figured it would be fine.

What followed was a bounce sideways instead of forward, mystifying spin that nearly sent his ball over the edge and into the drink, a chip with his feet pressed near the wooden frame of the island and a 30-foot par putt that Kaymer chalked up to instinct and luck.

"It was a very strange way to make 3," he said.

But it was enough to carry the 29-year-old German to a one-shot victory over Jim Furyk in a final round filled with stress, emotion and a large dose of satisfaction.

Kaymer got up-and-down with his putter from short of the 18th green for one last par, giving him a 1-under 71 and his first victory in nearly 18 months. The only time he nearly lost his composure was when talking about his mother, Rina, who died of cancer six years. He has a sunflower, her favorite flower, on his golf bag. His brother, Phillip, sent him a text that he described only as a "very emotional."

"To win on Mother's Day ... we show our parents way too little," he 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.

Furyk closed with a 66, having to wait out a 90-minute rain delay to make a 3-foot par putt. It looked as though it might be enough to force a playoff, or even win outright when Kaymer started to struggle. Just as he did last week at Quail Hollow, Furyk could only watch on TV from the locker room and settle for second place.

That wasn't the case with 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, who was tied with Kaymer going into the final round. He made his first bogey of the tournament on the fifth hole, and four more bogeys followed in his round of 74. He tied for fourth.

The typical stress that Sawgrass brings on Sunday was contained to the final hour, and it was almost more than Kaymer could take. He was sailing along until the lightning flashes and rain forced the rain delay. He had a three-shot lead with five holes left and was a different player when the round resumed.

When it dropped, he walked to the side and slammed his clenched fist in celebration, rare emotion for the German.

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.

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