Martin Kaymer was once the best golfer on the planet. That was only three years ago, but since then, his name has rarely been uttered in that elite group of golfers that includes Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
He’d fallen to 61 on the World Golf Rankings coming into the Players Championship this weekend, and there was little expectation that the German would be in the mix on Sunday.
But he hung in through a rain delay, a shot on the notorious island green on the 17th hole that almost spun into the water, and eventually recorded a one-shot victory. Through it all—the challenges of trying to remake his swing following his 2010 PGA Championship win and the resulting struggles—Kaymer says he never doubted himself.
“The belief is always there,” he says. “I knew that I could win a golf tournament again. It was not like that traumatic that a lot of people made it. But obviously a lot of people, they look for something that you don’t really feel, that you don’t really think is right, but it’s okay. But I knew I was doing the right thing, what I said earlier in the week. I just didn’t know it would take me that long, but it did.”
Kaymer, who has 10 wins on the European Tour and two on the PGA Tour, is only 29, and could well be a few years from his peak.
For Kaymer, it was an emotional win, coming on Mother’s Day, six years after the death of his mother, Rina, who battled cancer.
“I mean, to win on Mother’s Day, what I said on the stage already, that we show our parents way too little, way too less,” Kaymer says. “We always need some occasions to show them, which is what you realize when they’re not there anymore.
“I think about her every day,” he added. “I don’t need a Mother’s Day.”
Kaymer wasn’t the only one making a breakthrough. Though all eyes were on 20-year old Jordan Spieth, Canadian David Hearn quietly had one of the best tournaments of his career.
Hearn, from Brantford, Ont., tied for sixth with Rory McIlroy, and Francesco Molinari, earning himself $313,000 in the process. Hearn, an exacting golfer with a propensity for accuracy over power, deftly maneuvered his way around the TPC at Sawgrass, a course where blasting drivers isn’t always the best path to success.
“Length is always an asset,” Hearn said this morning. “It isn’t going away. But I’m average—long enough to compete out here.”
Hearn was steady all week, shooting rounds of 70-71-68-70. His final round was halted while he stood in the 18th fairway preparing to hit his approach. That’s when golfers were taken off the course as a thunderstorm hit Ponte Vedra, Florida, where the tournament is held. Hearn had a 90-minute wait until he could finish his round.
“At least we finished,” Hearn says, laughing. “I came back out and hit a good shot and gave myself a chance at birdie, so it worked out.”
Hearn moves to No. 93 in the world with his performance, and with his status locked in for next year, he is looking at cementing 2014 as his best season of golf. With three Top 10 finishes season already, Hearn is now looking towards the Tour Championship, which comes at the end of the FedEx Cup playoffs in September, to make his mark.
“I’m trying to be a player that gets continually better,” he says. “I’m in control of my emotions in big events now and for me to have a finish like this is amazing. It is a real highlight of my career.”
© Shaw Media, 2014