Faced with the strong likelihood of losing what had been a four-shot, back-nine lead, Martin Kaymer grabbed his putter, the same one that had lifted the golfing spirits of an entire continent, and took aim.
A lengthy weather delay had interrupted Kaymer’s march to a comfortable Players Championship victory: When the horn blew to suspend play, he had made no bogeys through 13 holes of the final round, and was sitting on a three-shot lead, in complete control.
Now, a few hours later, Kaymer was hanging on for dear life, spinning out of control, and playing maybe the most photographed golf hole in the world. The soft-spoken German never will be mistaken for a showman, but if there was ever a time and a place to show off, the 17th hole on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, while clinging to a one-shot lead, is a pretty tasty choice.
So Kaymer took that putter, the same one he used to win the Ryder Cup for Europe in 2012 near Chicago, looked well left of the hole at No. 17, and from 28 feet, 6 inches sent the ball on its way. Catching the slope, curling right, the white sphere ignored all the bad karma that Kaymer had imposed on himself since play had resumed — an ugly double bogey at No. 15, a failure to birdie the easy 16th, and a tee shot that easily could have found the water at No. 17, followed by an extremely poor chip — and somehow disappeared into the hole, the perfect line and perfect speed.
It was anything but a perfect par, but it was the defining moment of this Players Championship. Once Kaymer safely found the fairway at the difficult 18th, then used his putter twice — once from 10 feet short of the green, then from 3 feet for the win — he finally could celebrate. His one-shot victory Sunday over Jim Furyk, who started the final round six shots behind Kaymer and Jordan Spieth, was official.