A lengthy weather delay threw a wrench in the proceedings, but Martin Kaymer overcame the adversity to win the 2014 Players Championship on Sunday thanks to a 13-under-par mark.
Kaymer, along with other contenders such as Jordan Spieth, unraveled because of the delay as approaching darkness threatened to push the tournament into a fifth day.
But Kaymer was able to regain some semblance of composure after a double bogey on No. 15 and avoid a three-hole aggregate playoff on Monday morning with Jim Furyk, who came in a close second place after shooting six under on the day. Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose rounded out the remainder of the leaderboard.
SportsCenter elaborated on Kaymer's big payday as a result of his clutch performance:
Martin Kaymer wins THE PLAYERS Championship, his 2nd career PGA TOUR win. Kaymer takes home $1.8 million.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 12, 2014
Martin Kaymer sinks his par putt, illuminated by the light of the scoreboards around the 18th green. He is the 2014 PLAYERS Champion!— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 12, 2014
Here's a look at the final leaderboard at TPC Sawgrass:
After shocking the globe with a strong performance in the Masters, Spieth seized the outright lead at one point on Sunday before things went south. The downward spiral started with a bogey on the fifth hole, as Bob Harig of ESPN points out:
Finally a bogey for Spieth. What an amazing run. Went 58 holes without. #Players— Bob Harig (@BobHarig) May 11, 2014
A pair of bogeys on the first nine holes signaled the end of Spieth's contention. The leaderboard after the first nine was telling enough, per the Global Golf Post's Ron Green Jr.:
Kaymer takes two-stroke lead to the back nine...Spieth has no positive momentum at the moment... T'storm warnings crawl on Jax TV stations— RonGreenJr (@RonGreenJr) May 11, 2014
To be fair, the inclement weather hurt Kaymer in an even bigger way. After his game plan entering the day landed him at 15 under through 14 holes before the weather delay, things unraveled. But first, the game plan, via Adam Schupak of Golf Week:
Last night, Martin Kaymer said his game plan was to be aggressive on the par 5s & stay cool & calm down the stretch. -3 on the 5s so far.— Adam Schupak (@GolfweekSchupak) May 11, 2014
That game plan resulted in some pretty shots, to say the least:
But one double bogey on No. 15 by Kaymer, and Furyk—who had entered the clubhouse as the leader at 12 under par—was suddenly in serious contention.
Kaymer found his form again on a tricky No. 17 hole and put a wicked bend on his putt to land a pair and fend off Furyk. Alex Myers of Golf Digest captured the moment best:
ESPN's Skip Bayless threw his name in the hat for the honor, too:
Martin Kaymer just made as great a collapse-halting, tournament-saving, big-breaking guts putt as I've seen (on 17!) and won the Players.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) May 12, 2014
Garcia wound up just outside of the top two at 11 under after shooting two under on Sunday, as bogeys on Nos. 11 and 14 were his undoing. For Rose, a string of three straight bogeys on holes 10 through 12 sealed his fate and ensured three birdies on his final four holes meant little on the leaderboard.
Rory McIlroy was another notable name in attendance, but his tournament overall was marred by inconsistency. As The Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman points out, McIlroy put together a nice rally to finish at nine under par:
Rory McIlroy birdies 16,17 & 18 in last 2 rds for back door top 10 at Players. Nice rally for a guy who shot 42 on front yesterday— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) May 11, 2014
Kaymer becomes the first European player to win a PGA Tour event this season, although even he admits the weather almost ruined a seemingly perfect weekend for him, as captured by Mark Lamport-Stokes of Reuters:
Martin Kaymer on the weather delay at the Players: "A little sad that we had to stop. I had a really good round going, played really solid."— Mark Lamport-Stokes (@MarkLamport) May 11, 2014
Regardless, it's a feather in the cap for Kaymer, who can use the momentum to win more tournaments down the road. It has to be reassuring for him that he fended off a major collapse with events like the U.S. Open on the horizon.
The same can't be said for Spieth, who had the look of one of the best in the world for about 50 holes before an epic collapse. His strong suit on the greens failed him when it mattered most, which is something he'll have to learn from in a hurry if he is to continue to compete at a high level heading into the summer's big events.