Every season, the debate continues about the status of The PLAYERS Championship. Should the tournament known as golf’s “fifth major” actually be made into a major?
Players and pundits alike have their opinions, but tonight, at least, there’s one man who likely doesn’t care. That’s because, for Martin Kaymer, that trophy must feel as good as any major championship ever could.
The 29-year-old German entered Sunday’s final round at TPC Sawgrass in a tie with the hottest player in the game, Jordan Spieth. But when Spieth struggled for the first time all week, Kaymer kept finding ways to hold on to the lead.
As is usually the case at Sawgrass, much of the tournament came down to the famed 17th, the “island” hole. By the time the final group came to the tee, Spieth had fallen off the pace, but Kaymer had nearly been caught by Jim Furyk, who was finishing up a round of six-under 66 to get within one.
Kaymer’s tee shot nearly rolled through the green and into the water, but caught in the rough just prior to the drop. He left his chip well short of the hole, setting up a monstrous par putt. If he missed, the bogey would drop him into a tie with Furyk, with the challenging 18th still to come. But his roll was true, and the fist pump as the ball rattled at the bottom of the cup showed that Kaymer felt what we were all seeing.
He was back.
Although Kaymer’s fall from the top of the sport has been well-documented, the way he held up in a wire-to-wire victory was nothing less than impressive. It’s easy for people to forget that this is just Kaymer’s second full season as a full-time PGA Tour member, and his renewed confidence is showing more and more on the course each week. After missing the cut at Houston last month, Kaymer’s results have improved with each start, from a tie for 31st at the Masters to this week’s victory.
While this win was obviously a major landmark for Kaymer, there’s also no need for it to be the end of his journey back. Last year, he scored two top-ten finishes in the second half of the season, including a top-five at the Byron Nelson Championship, site of next week’s event. That type of confidence boost could be huge.
Could this be the win that unlocks the next stage of Kaymer’s career? Only time will tell, but things are definitely looking up for the once-again champion.