The Punter's De-Brief: Classy Kaymer holds his nerve

Martin Kaymer - The Players champion
Martin Kaymer - The Players champion

Steve takes a look back at a dramatic Sunday on both sides of the Atlantic which saw a maiden win for England's Daniel Brooks and a first Players Championship title for Martin Kaymer...

"Kaymer had begun the final round tied with Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods had also been tied at the top twelve months ago but I’m not convinced it’s where you want to be. The previous six champions had all been out of the lead after three rounds and Kaymer and Woods are very experienced proven winners. I’d be wary of someone less experienced converting from the front on a pressure-filled Sawgrass Sunday."


The Madeira Islands Open had started out looking like a really weak event. Then after numerous fog delays it developed into a bit of a farce and then yesterday it ended in absolute tragedy. The reduced 36-hole event was eventually won by England's Daniel Brooks, who beat Scotland's Scott Henry at the first playoff hole but the victory was tinged with much sadness given Alastair Forsyth's caddie, Iain McGregor, had collapsed and died on the ninth fairway. The 52-year-old was extremely popular and affectionately known as Mac. 

A weather delay added much drama to the Players Championship, which was won bravely by Martin Kaymer. The German had been three clear with six to play and on his way to what looked likely to be a very easy win when they were hauled off but he wasn't quite as comfortable after the break. He deserves much credit for the way he recovered to hold on after a disastrous double bogey at the 15th hole and victory was very much down to this spectacular par saving putt on 17 from just shy of 30 feet. He then made a great up-down on the 18th to beat Jim Furyk by a stroke.


My Bets

I made a bit of a mess of the Madeira Islands Open, not realising that having decided to instrument a cut after 18 holes that the organisers would abandon the second round draw and play in reverse order instead of the original draw order. Mercifully my in-play bets were tiny but it was frustrating spending so much time on it.

My pre-event picks at the Players were disappointing, especially Luke Donald, but as detailed in the in-play blog, I felt Kaymer was the value play from the halfway stage and in so his win more than made up for it. 


What have we learned this week?

I don't think we can draw anything from the Madeira event at all but the Players Championship reinforced a few trends.

The previous 10 winners averaged 9.3 previous outings at Sawgrass and Kaymer was making his sixth appearance so he brought the average down slightly but he'd certainly been round there enough times to get to know the place.

Yet again Greens in Regulation and scrambling were the key stats. Kaymer ranked third for greens hit and Furyk second and the pair ranked fourth and fifth respectfully for scrambling. 

Up with the pace is where you need to be here. Kaymer is the fourth first round leader to go on and win in 10 years but he's the first to win wire-to wire since Hal Sutton in 2000. Kaymer had begun the final round tied with Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods had also been tied at the top 12 months ago but I'm not convinced it's where you want to be. The previous six champions had all been out of the lead after three rounds and Kaymer and Woods are very experienced proven winners. I'd be wary of someone less experienced converting from the front on a pressure-filled Sawgrass Sunday.

Prior to Kaymer, the two previous winners were American, Matt Kuchar and Tiger, but five of the six winners before that pair were international players and with only three Americans in the top-11 this year, Sawgrass is definitely a venue where the overseas players can shine.


Watch for the weather breaks

Jordan Spieth had started fast and he hit 1.855/6 when he took the lead with a birdie at the 4th but he bogeyed the very next hole and Kaymer soon took command. The German was cruising to the line when play was stopped but he lost his momentum during the break and he very nearly blew it when they came back. Matched at just 1.071/14 before the break, he hit a high of 2.226/5 after it when he duffed his chip on 17. At that point, Jim Furyk became the third man to go odds-on when he was matched at a low of 1.774/5 and it was yet another example of how soon things can change after a weather delay.


Can we trust Jordan Spieth in-the-mix?

The answer is simply no - although I do think it's only a matter of time before he improves. He's led three big events through 54-holes this year now and he's failed to convert every time. He led the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the US Masters and now the Players and on every occasion he's been a bit disappointing in the heat of battle. He is only 20 though and I love his demeanour. I don't think it will be too long before he closes out from the front but until he does we have to be wary of him - especially as the market is so keen on him. 

I thought it slightly absurd that he was such a clear favourite over Kaymer this weekend given he was up against a WGC and major winner with a proven track record of closing out tournaments and so it proved. No doubt he'll be extremely popular the next time he's in a similar position but until we see an improvement I shall be looking to take him on again.

We've got two really good events to look forward to this week with Open de España on the European Tour and the HP Byron Nelson in the States. I'll be back tomorrow with a preview for each and make sure you look out for Paul Krishnamurty's Find Me a 100 Winner column too. He was at it again last week with Francesco Molinari hitting the first lay-back target.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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