PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida: Germany’s Martin Kaymer had made some big putts before — ne to win a major championship, another to clinch a Ryder Cup.
But even Kaymer did not expect his 281/2-foot par putt to fall on the famed par-3, 17th island green at TPC Sawgrass.
Neither did Jim Furyk.
Kaymer nearly coughed up a three-shot lead over the final four holes Sunday evening at the Players Championship until his unlikely par on No. 17 carried him to a one-shot victory over Furyk. Kaymer finished 13-under 275 total for his first win since November of 2011.
“Obviously you cannot expect yourself to make that putt,” Kaymer said. “That’s what I said; I just played with a lot of instinct and there was a little bit of luck involved that the ball went in. It was quite a nice feeling walking onto 18 know that you have a one-shot lead.”
Kaymer still had work to do.
The par-4 18th — the fourth-toughest hole all week — has not claimed as many victims as No. 17, but has decided its share of Players Championships.
Kaymer striped his drive to perfect position, but hit his second shot heavy from 174 yards and had to navigate a 45-foot putt from the fairway. Left with a little less than four feet for the win, Kaymer said he recalled his 8-foot par putt to clinch Europe’s comeback win at the 2012 Ryder Cup.
“I thought a little about the Ryder Cup, how nice that feeling was, and that I’ve done it before,” he said.
At the same time, Kaymer was surprised to find himself in that position.
The former world No. 1 was cruising when thunderstorms swept TPC Sawgrass late Sunday afternoon. Kaymer returned from a 93-minute weather to embark on a four-hole rollercoaster ride that ended with his biggest win since the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, another layout by designer Pete Dye.
In 2010, Kaymer sank a 10-foot par putt on the 18th hole to force a playoff with Bubba Watson.
On Sunday, Kaymer was in complete command until he made double-bogey 6 at the par-4 15th hole following an errant drive and ill-advised second shot from the pine straw that left him with a hopeless up-and-down. The miscues opened the door for Furyk, a longtime Ponte Vedra resident who hit 16 of 18 greens during a brilliant 6-under 66 to give him a chance for his first win at TPC Sawgrass.
“I did what I could,” Furyk said. “I left it all on the golf course, and I hung it all out there today and every cliché you can think of.”
But Kaymer came up with something special at the home to so much heartbreak over the years at TPC Sawgrass.
Kaymer’s tee shot at No. 17 cleared the water and landed just over the bunker, but it immediately spun hard left and barely settled into a thick spot of grass on the collar – a foot from the water. Following a poor chip, Kaymer was left a seemingly impossible putt with about 10 feet of break.
“It was a very strange and very nice way to make a 3 on that hole,” he said. “Making a putt like that is more than big.”
On a day featuring ideal scoring conditions, Kaymer’s final putt left him 1-under 71 for the day.
Furyk was one of five players to post rounds of 66 or better. But there were plenty of struggles, none more than those of 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, who began the day tied with Kaymer.
Spieth birdied the fourth hole to seize his first lead of the week. But he then lost his swing, his confidence and a chance to win golf’s so-called “fifth major.”
Spieth went 58 holes without a bogey at TPC Sawgrass but had five on his final 14 holes. He finished with a 74.
“I’m stinging right now,” he said. “It’s not fun behind that close and being in the lead on Sunday and not pulling it off.”