PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Here are a few final thoughts from this week at THE PLAYERS Championship, where Martin Kaymer claimed his second career PGA TOUR victory with dramatic par saves at Nos. 17 and 18:
Each year at THE PLAYERS, we hear a familiar motto. TPC Sawgrass is a golf course that favors no one.
For the most part, people are right; THE PLAYERS has really seen all types of winners, from Tim Clark to Tiger Woods, from Fred Funk to Phil Mickelson.
“This golf course does not love anybody,” NBC analyst Johnny Miller said in a pre-tournament conference call. “I just think it's a course that no one ever gets feeling really comfy out there.”
One person might argue that point: Sergio Garcia, who appears to be the closest thing we have to a horse for the Stadium Course. This week’s third-place finish moved Garcia within 52 thousand dollars of Tiger Woods on THE PLAYERS all-time money list. He’s made more in his 15 starts at TPC Sawgrass ($4.3 million) than David Hearn – who finished T6 this week, by the way – has made in his 131-event career.
Garcia defeated Paul Goydos to win in a playoff in 2008 and Sunday he was just a few bad swings away from putting the tournament’s new three-hole aggregate playoff rule into effect with Martin Kaymer. His left foot slipped at No. 11 and resulted in an errant layup into the water and a missed second shot at 14 also led to a bogey.
“It's obviously a positive week and it's another good performance on a tough golf course,” Garcia said.
Garcia has made 11 consecutive cuts at THE PLAYERS and finished in the top 10 the past two years. (Of course, a T8 finish last year doesn’t sound particularly good considering he was holding the lead on the 71st tee.) This week was his fifth top-10 at TPC Sawgrass.
How comfortable is Garcia on the Stadium Course? Here’s the comparison he made after his PLAYERS win in 2008, when he was asked about his thoughts on the upcoming U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
“I think it's going to be really difficult to beat Tiger there,” he said (wisely). “He obviously loves that golf course there… It’s kind of like the same way I feel here.”
I gave it my best effort but just short! The bogeys on 11th and 14th killed me! Very happy for my friend Martin! What a putt on 17!!!— Sergio Garcia (@TheSergioGarcia) May 12, 2014
It was an unusually tame week at No. 17, where only four balls went in the water over the final 36 holes. That will be little consolation to Richard H. Lee, who had a different kind of disaster at No. 17, mis-hitting two consecutive shots and turning into an unfortunate video star.
Richard H. Lee gets tangled up on 17 at THE PLAYERS
Richard H. Lee gets tangled up on 17 at THE PLAYERS
Lee (or at least his daughter) kept a good sense of humor about the gaffe.
I’m on Twitter a lot. That’s why I’m so surprised that I’ve missed NBC Crane Camera Operator John Boeddeker’s account (@BoecamNBC) for so long.
Boeddeker spends most of his weeks on TOUR about 100 feet above the golf course. He was perched above the island 17th this week and continued to share gems like this one.
People ask all the time who the “good guys” on TOUR are. Martin Kaymer is certainly on the list and if you couldn’t tell from his great post-round interviews, here is what his fellow TOUR players had to say after his win:
Congrats to herr Kaymer, what a win! Nice week for me never happy when you bogey the 72nd hole but lots of positives this week!— Francesco Molinari (@F_Molinari) May 12, 2014
Very happy for Martin! One of the nicest guys on tour... Clutch putt on 17! Major champ, Ryder cup winner and players champ.. #bigtimeplayer— Rory Mcilroy (@McIlroyRory) May 12, 2014
Congrats to Kaymer! Nail biting finish but he got the job done! Made the @THEPLAYERSChamp finish exciting! #1.8mill— Billy Horschel (@BillyHo_Golf) May 12, 2014
Herzlichen glückwunsch Martin Kaymer @THEPLAYERSChamp. Sehr gut gemacht, dich wieder zu haben, ich freue sehr für dich mein freund...— Gary Player (@garyplayer) May 12, 2014
Proud of you Martin Kaymer!— Gonzalo Fdez-Castaño (@gfcgolf) May 12, 2014
My favorite quote of the week came from Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano after his opening 67. Fernandez-Castano has been friends with Sergio Garcia since they were 10 years old and after the round, he was asked about the time two years ago when Garcia said he wasn’t good enough to win a major.
“If he doesn't have it, 80 percent of the field should just go home and do something else,” Fernandez-Castano said. “Because he's got everything.”
STAT OF THE WEEK: Since 1983, no player has played nine holes at TPC Sawgrass better than 13 under for the week. That is, until Rory McIlroy played the back nine in 17 under this week. McIlroy birdied the difficult 18th all four days and in each of the final two rounds he birdied all three holes of The Gauntlet (Nos. 16-18).
THIS WEEK: The PGA TOUR heads to Texas for the Byron Nelson Championship, the first of two events in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Read more about this week’s field and storylines in Jeff Shain’s First Look.
Thanks for all the support it means a lot.. Closing on tour obviously takes a couple tries in the big ones. Home game this week let's go!!— Jordan Spieth (@JordanSpieth) May 12, 2014