Martin Kaymer took advantage of late mistakes by Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson to win the U.S. PGA Championship for his first major tournament title.
Kaymer beat Watson by one stroke in a three-hole playoff yesterday at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin. His victory came on a day when six players claimed at least a share of the lead and Johnson was denied a chance at victory by a two-stroke penalty on the last hole.
“Now I know that I can win and that I can beat the best players in the world,” said the 25-year-old Kaymer. “This was the toughest field all year and, for my confidence, that is the biggest thing you can get.”
Kaymer, who climbs to a career-high fifth in the Official World Golf Ranking, is the second German to claim one of golf’s four major championships after two-time Masters winner Bernhard Langer. The champion, who also had top 10 finishes at the U.S. Open and British Open this year, receives $1.35 million for the victory.
“My goal at the beginning of the season was to finish in the top 10 (in the majors),” Kaymer said. “But to be honest with you, I was never really expecting myself to win here.”
Kaymer finished even par for the playoff, one shot better than Watson, and won with a bogey on the third extra hole after Watson hit into a water hazard and made a double bogey.
Johnson had a one-stroke lead at 12-under with one hole to play after birdies at the 16th and 17th holes, and missed a six-foot par putt on the last green that he thought was for the win.
Instead of joining the playoff, Johnson was docked two strokes because he touched the ground with his club while addressing his second shot at No. 18 in an area that he said he didn’t realize was a bunker. It led to a triple-bogey that dropped him to a tie for fifth at 9-under.
“Going into the playoff without him, it didn’t seem right,” Watson said.
Fans surrounding the 18th green chanted “Let him play” before PGA of America officials announced the penalty about 15 minutes after Johnson finished the hole.
“I just thought I was on a piece of dirt that the crowd had trampled down,” the 26-year-old Johnson said in a televised interview. “It never once crossed my mind that it was a bunker.”
The PGA said each player received a rules sheet at the start of the tournament describing the playing conditions. All sand on the course is listed as a bunker and is considered in-play, with no “waste areas” that would permit a player to ground their club before a swing.
“I guess this is one situation where I should have looked at the rules sheet a little harder,” said Johnson, who in June led the U.S. Open by three strokes entering the last day before stumbling to an 11-over 82.
Kaymer started the final round in a tie for fourth place, four shots behind 54-hole leader Nick Watney after two straight bogey-free rounds. Watney opened with a double-bogey yesterday en route to an 81 and his struggles left a wide-open leaderboard. Twelve players were within two shots of the lead during the final round.
In the playoff, Watson birdied the first hole, the par-4 10th. Kaymer came back with a 15-foot birdie putt on the next, the 235-yard, par-3 17th.
When Watson’s second shot from the rough on the next hole, No. 18, landed in water short of the green, Kaymer played safely. The German hit a wedge out of thick grass and knocked his third shot on the green and made a two-putt bogey. Watson’s fourth shot flew through the green and into a bunker, where his attempt at bogey hit the flagstick and rolled five feet away.
“I hit a good shot,” Watson, who got his first U.S. PGA Tour win in June, said of his approach. “It just didn’t come out like I wanted it to.”
Tied at 11-Under
Kaymer and Watson made the playoff at 11-under par, one better than Zach Johnson and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy. McIlroy and Steve Elkington, the 1995 PGA champion, missed long birdie putts on the 18th hole that would have taken them into the playoff.
Tiger Woods tied for 28th place at 2-under. He shot 73 yesterday after rounds of 71, 70 and 72, and has now gone two seasons without adding to his 14 major titles.
“I’m disappointed,” Woods said during a news conference “For it to be a great year you have to win a major.”
Woods, winless in nine starts this season, will remain the world’s No. 1 player because Phil Mickelson failed to finish in the top three. Mickelson, the 2005 PGA champion and this year’s Masters winner, tied for 12th place at 6-under.