In a finish that a Hollywood script writer could not even imagine Martin Kaymer of Germany won the 92nd PGA Championship in a three-hole playoff with American Bubba Watson – two players with styles of golf games and personalities on opposite ends of the spectrum. When all the drama was over – rulings, playoff, et al, all that was left for 25-year old Kaymer to win his 1st major championship was a two foot putt for bogey that he ran smoothly into the center of the cup.
But the two-man playoff looked to have another participant, Dustin Johnson, before a ruling left him on the wrong end of two stroke penalty. It was a shocking situation that received a lot of criticism from fans who watched but Johnson himself knew that the blame fell on him; not the officials who made the call. “Yeah, I just thought I was on a piece of dirt that the crowd had trampled down. I never thought I was in a sand trap. It never once crossed my mind that I was in a bunker. Obviously I know the Rules of Golf, and I can't ground my club in a bunker, but that was just one situation I guess. Maybe I should have looked to the rule sheet a little harder,” he said referring to the well documented local rules that put great emphasis on the possibility of such a situation.
Even with the heartbreaking situation, Johnson can take solace in the fact that he has made the Ryder Cup team that will compete in Wales and was once again in contention at a major championship. “Yeah, I mean, you know, I hit some really good shots coming down the stretch, made some birdies to get a one-shot lead going into 18. Other than the unfortunate incident on 18, I played really well all day. I'm definitely happy with my play.”
Another man happy with his play was they pride of Bagdad, Florida himself, Bubba Watson. Watson made a birdie on the 1st hole of the three-hole aggregate playoff but a final hole double bogey derailed his chances to put the Wannamaker Trophy on his den shelf. “It was a weird day today, obviously, with the finish that you saw. You know, I wasn't on anybody's radar. Nobody in this media center thought I had a chance this morning. Nobody talked about me probably this morning,” said Watson whose final round 68 was only bested by Phil Mickelson’s 67. “The weather gave me an opportunity to do it, kind of like Travelers, nobody expected me to win that, either. You know, I just played solid, just put my head down and tried to play as good of golf as I could and try to grind out a good finish, if not a win. And then when it worked out that I made some birdies and made some good pars, and I got a chance to go in a playoff. It's very heartbreaking to hear about Dustin Johnson, that's upsetting. The guy's played great golf and he just made a mistake. I feel for him. That's very disheartening, and that's why this situation today was just weird. We sat in the locker room and didn't know what was going on, so the playoff was just weird, going into the playoff without him, it didn't seem right. But I made The Ryder Cup, so that's all I care about.”
For the man who did eventually hoist the Wannamaker, 5-time European Tour winner Martin Kaymer, it was his putter that made all the difference in leading him to the most important victory of his career so far. A clutch 15 foot putt for on the 18th hole of regulation play got him into the playoff but another magnificent stroke – a 15 footer for birdie on the 2nd playoff hole, put him even with Watson with one hole to play in the playoff. After taking one less stroke than Watson on the final test it was a shocked Kaymer who stoically accepted the polite applause of the crowd at Whistling Straits who clearly would have loved to see Watson, or even Johnson, as the ultimate winner. "I don't realize what happened," Kaymer said once the championship had been decided. "I just won my first major. I've got goose bumps just talking about it."
To the delight of golf fans everywhere the build up to the final major championship of the year was justified. Whistling Straits and the play of the golfers, including 97 of the top 100 players in the world, delivered a PGA Championship that will be talked about for many years to come – for so many reasons. You can’t ask for much more than that from a tournament that not too long ago had lost its lustre.
Clearly, its importance is not lost on anyone anymore. Well, maybe Martin Kaymer at first, but in time he will fully realize what he has accomplished in beating the world’s best on a Sunday afternoon in Wisconsin.
This report provided to GolfWRX.com by Flagstick Golf Magazine (www.flagstick.com)