Martin Kaymer won his first major in a playoff at a PGA Championship that will be remembered as much for the player who finished fifth. The final stroke of this most bizarre major was Kaymer tapping in from 2 feet to win a three-hole playoff over Bubba Watson. Equally significant was the 4-iron that Dustin Johnson gently placed in the sand behind his ball on the final hole of regulation at Whistling Straits, unaware that he was in one of more than 1,000 bunkers that litters this lunarlike landscape.
Johnson had a one-shot lead playing the 18th hole when he drove it well right into a tiny patch of sand where the gallery had been walking all week. He grounded his club, thinking it was grass that had been killed under a week's worth of foot traffic. Fans were packed so tight around him that he never gave it another thought. "Walking up there, seeing the shot, it never once crossed my mind that I was in a sand trap," Johnson said. "It's very unfortunate. The only worse thing that could have happened was if I had made the putt on that last hole."
He missed the 7-foot par putt to seemingly slip into a three-man playoff with Kaymer and Watson. But the two-shot penalty turned his 71 into a 73, and instead of going to a play-off for redemption from his US Open meltdown, Johnson tied for fifth and headed home. As Johnson was leaving the course, Kaymer was coming up clutch again. The 25-year-old German holed a 15-foot par putt on the 18th hole in regulation for a 2-under 70 to join Watson (68) at 11-under 277. One shot behind in the playoff, Kaymer made another 15-foot putt for birdie on the par-3 17th, then watched Watson implode.
Watson went from the right rough into the water, then over the green into a bunker. His bunker shot hit the flag, and he tapped in for double bogey. Kaymer chipped out after seeing Watson go in the water, and he hit 7-iron to 15 feet for a two-putt bogey. "I don't realise what happened," Kaymer said. "I just won my first major. I've got goose bumps just talking about it." Kaymer earned $1.35 million, went to third in the Ryder Cup standings for Europe and moved to a career-best No. 5 in the world.
It was the cruelest ending to a major since Roberto de Vicenzo signed for a higher score in the final round of the 1968 Masters that was won by Bob Goalby. Watson was only disappointed for a few minutes until learning he had played his way onto the Ryder Cup team. For Johnson, this might take far longer to recover from the US Open, where he had a three-shot lead going into the final round, took triple bogey on the second hole and shot an 82.
The final major of the year proved to be the most thrilling over the final hour, even with Tiger Woods long gone before all the excitement began. Woods closed with a 73 and tied for 28th. Six players had a share of the lead at some point on Sunday, and six players were separated by one shot over the final 30 minutes. That included Rory McIlroy, 21, from Northern Ireland who was trying to become the youngest major champion in 80 years. He had a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole to join the clubhouse leaders at 11 under, only for the putt to turn away.
Also one shot behind was former Masters champion Zach Johnson. Both of them needed a birdie on the 500-yard closing hole that only allowed one birdie in the final round. *AP