PONTE VEDRA BEACH — Martin Kaymer never lost sight of opportunity even amid so much evidence of trouble in the closing stretch Sunday at the Players Championship.
A bad chip led to double bogey. A bad decision cost him a chance at birdie. With his lead down to one shot, he watched his ball soar against the gray sky toward the scariest island in golf and figured it would be fine.
What followed was a bounce sideways instead of forward, a mystifying spin that nearly sent his ball over the edge and into the water, a chip with his feet pressed near the wooden frame of the island and a 30-foot par putt that Kaymer chalked up to instinct and luck. "It was a very strange way to make 3," he said.
But it was enough to carry the German, 29, to a one-shot victory over Jim Furyk in a final round filled with stress, emotion and a large dose of satisfaction.
Kaymer got up-and-down with his putter from short of the 18th green for one last par, giving him 1-under 71 for the round and 13-under 275 overall for his first victory in nearly 18 months. The only time he nearly lost his composure was when talking about his mother, Rina, who died of cancer six years ago. He has a sunflower, her favorite flower, on his golf bag. His brother, Phillip, sent him a text message he described only as a "very emotional."
"To win on Mother's Day … we show our parents way too little," he said. "We always need some occasions to show them, which is what you realize when they're not there anymore. So to win on those days … it adds a little bit of a nice thing to the whole week."
Furyk closed with 66, having to wait out a 90-minute rain delay to make a 3-foot par putt. It looked as though that might be enough to force a playoff, or even win outright. Just as he did last week at the Wells Fargo Championship, Furyk settled for second place.
"I did what I could," Furyk said. "I left it all on the golf course, and I hung it all out there (Sunday) and every cliche you can think of."
Sergio Garcia (70) finished alone in third at 11 under, though he never got within two shots of the lead at any point. That wasn't the case with Jordan Spieth, who was tied with Kaymer going into the final round. He made his first bogey of the tournament on the fifth hole, and four more followed in his round of 74. He shot 74 and tied for fourth at 10 under.
"I'm stinging right now," Spieth said.
Kaymer was sailing along until lightning and rain forced the delay. He had a three-shot lead with five holes left but was a different player when the round resumed.
He made double bogey from an aggressive play behind a pine tree on the 15th. He nervously chose putter from a collection area on the par-5 16th that turned a simple chance at birdie into par.
Nothing could top the 17th. When his chip shot stopped just inside 30 feet, bogey looked certain. Kaymer couldn't see the line in the approaching darkness. When it dropped, he walked to the side and slammed his clenched fist in celebration.
"Making a putt like this is more than big," he said. "I think I will realize it the next few days."
ROSE GETS REPRIEVE: The PGA Tour rescinded a two-shot penalty given Saturday to Justin Rose before his final round, changing its mind to say sophisticated TV technology was the only way to determine the violation. An addition in January to the "Decisions on the Rules of Golf" waives a penalty if the slightest ball movement can be detected only by enhanced technology. Rose (69) finished at 10-under 278.