With spotlight on Spieth, Kaymer seeks Players title

Martin Kaymer during Saturday's third round of the 2014 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. –– Martin Kaymer has won a major. He’s holed the winning putt at a Ryder Cup. Yet, the media circling Jordan Spieth’s caddie, Michael Greller, outnumbered those that attended Kaymer’s post-round press conference.

How did that make him feel?

“Well, I think it’s nice for me. It’s a bit more quiet,” he said. “If there’s less attention on me right now, I’ll take it. There’s always a little bit more distracting when so many people talk to you and want something from you. You can talk to his caddie, his coach. It’s all good.”

On a warm, breezy day at TPC Sawgrass, Kaymer’s even-par 72 in the third round of the Players Championship was good enough for a share of the 54-hole lead, his first at a PGA Tour event.

Kaymer began the day one stroke ahead of Jordan Spieth and that’s the way they remained until the 18th green when Spieth made par from 13 feet, and Kaymer missed from 10 feet and bogeyed to finish tied at 12-under 204. In an unfortunate moment, some fans in the partisan crowd cheered Kaymer’s misfortune, one of the reasons, he noted, “It felt a bit like a Ryder Cup match, but we didn’t play in Europe, obviously.”

Spieth noticed this ugly scene and said, “He handled it gracefully, just a class act, took his hat off, smiled.”

That wasn't all about the German's game that impressed Spieth.

“The ball, he seems to go after it, even to the driver, and they seem to all just come off right on line,” Spieth said.

But most of all, Spieth admired Kaymer’s approach to the game.

“He was out there truly having fun,” Spieth said. “He came up to me after I missed the putt on 10 and we were walking down the fairway at 11, he’s like, ‘Just don’t worry about it, just have some fun. This is where you want to be,’ which was really cool for him to come up and say that at the time.”

Kaymer tied the course record with 63 on Thursday, tacked on a solid 69 on Friday and used an assortment of sand saves and short-game wizardry to salvage par on Saturday. He came into the week ranked 192nd on Tour in scrambling, but through 54 holes, he’s fourth in the field, converting 10 of 13 opportunities in that stretch.

On Sunday, Kaymer has a chance to propel himself back into the game’s upper echelon if he can outduel Spieth and hold off the likes of Sergio Garcia and John Senden, who share third at 9 under. Kaymer will attempt to feed off the confidence he gained in securing the clinching point of the 2012 Ryder Cup.

Kaymer will need to putt the way he did that day in defeating Steve Stricker rather than how he stroked the ball in the third round of the Players. Kaymer ranked 60 out of 82 who made the cut in strokes gained-putting (-1.041). But at Medinah, he never flinched when it mattered most, holing a 6-footer to retain the Cup. He was Teutonic cool personified, pumping both fists and leaping into the welcoming arms of teammate Sergio Garcia. Soon, Kaymer would don the German flag like a cape of a super hero.

Could he experience that feeling of invincibility again?

“At the end of the day, it comes down to if you really play with your heart and with a passion and really want to win,” he said. “It comes down to the person who really, really wants it.”

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