Kaymer beats Watson in PGA playoff after bizarre penalty eliminates Johnson

Martin Kaymer prevailed in a three-hole playoff against Bubba Watson to win his first career major title.
Kohjiro Kinno/SI

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Just as it did in 2004, the 92nd PGA Championship came down to the treacherous 18th hole. This time it included a bizarre ruling that won't soon be forgotten.

In a three-hole playoff that went from three men to two before it began, Martin Kaymer beat Bubba Watson with a bogey on 18 in extended play, ending a topsy-turvy and controversial final round at windy Whistling Straits.

"I was not so calm in the last round, to be honest," said Kaymer, 25. "The last four or five holes, I was quite nervous."

Still, Kaymer played steady, mostly error-free golf while his closest competitors were doomed by mistakes both mental and physical.

Tied with Kaymer at one under in the playoff, Watson drove into the right rough and hit his second shot well short of the 206 yards he needed to reach the front of the 18th green. His ball splashed into the water, and his bogey try from a greenside bunker rattled the flagstick but wouldn't drop.

Dustin Johnson got the craziest crooked break of all, but he also sabotaged himself by failing to heed the rules.

He was hit with a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club in an unkempt bunker right of the 18th fairway, knocking him out of the playoff with Watson and Kaymer, both of whom made long par putts on the 500-yard finisher.

PGA Tour Confidential: Our experts debate the ruling

Sitting at 12 under par after making a birdie on the par-3 17th hole, Johnson sprayed his tee shot on 18 well right and into the gallery lining the hole. When he found his ball, it was in a patch of sand and dirt that looked unlike any of the bunkers pros regularly see on the PGA Tour. From a perfect lie, he tried to reach the green from 233 yards but missed short and left, into a gnarly lie in the rough.

He pitched up to within eight feet but hit his par putt too softly and bogeyed, dropping into the playoff. Or so it seemed.

An official notified him immediately after the round that it appeared he had ground his club in a hazard, which spectators had been walking through all day. The official was calling it a bunker. Television replays confirmed that Johnson had indeed ground his club, which he never denied, at which point the question became whether the scraggly spot was indeed a bunker or a waste area.

After about 15 minutes of deliberation, Johnson was done in by a ruling that was made before the '04 PGA and held for this one, too: Even if a bunker was outside the ropes, unraked and filled with spectators, it was to be considered an actual sand trap, not a waste area.

The unlucky Johnson, who fumbled away the U.S. Open in June, signed for a triple-bogey and was done.

"I don't know," Johnson told CBS's David Feherty. "If it was up to me, I wouldn't have thought I was in [a] bunker, but it's not up to me, it's up to the Rules Committee, so I've got to deal with it."

Said Mark Wilson, co-chairman of the PGA of America Rules Committee: "We made it the number one item on our local rules sheet simply to explain that all of the bunkers that were designed and built as sand bunkers on this golf course would be played that way."

Watson began the playoff by nearly driving the 370-yard, par-4 10th hole, then chipping up to two feet from the cup. He made the putt for birdie to take a one-stroke lead.

Kaymer answered by hitting his tee shot to within 15 feet on the 223-yard, par-3 17th hole and draining the birdie putt. That set the stage for 18, again.

For finishing second, Watson vaulted all the way to third in the Ryder Cup points table. The PGA was the final event to qualify for the event on merit.

"That's my Olympics," said Watson, whose final-round 68 tied Camilo Villegas for the best score of anyone in the top 11 Sunday. "I've wanted to play the Ryder Cup my whole life."

In the strongest wind of the week, Whistling Straits played to every one of its 7,513 yards. Watson ended the week first in driving distance, averaging just over 327 yards on his measured drives. Johnson was third at just over 310.

"This course is meant for length," said Steve Stricker, who as a Madison, Wis., resident was a crowd favorite and finished four under. "Just look at that last hole. You've got to hit about 300 yards into the wind just to be able to get it home."

Several players had a chance to win. As regulation play began to taper off at 5:20 p.m., three men, Steve Elkington, Kaymer and Watson, were at 11 under. Dustin and Zach Johnson, and Rory McIlroy, were at 10.

Elkington, 47, narrowly missed a 14-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole and bogeyed the 17th and 18th to fall to nine under.

McIlroy hit a 5-iron into the final hole to within 20 feet but barely missed his birdie attempt on the low side.

It took all of 15 minutes for Nick Watney's three-stroke, 54-hole lead to disappear, setting up a free-for-all.

Watney's approach shot on the first hole ended up way short and on the edge of a pot bunker, well below his feet, from which it took him two swipes to get on the green. Two putts from six feet gave him a double-bogey 6.

When playing partner Dustin Johnson converted a short birdie putt, the two were tied at 11 under.

Watney's chances ended for good when he hit a 6-iron shot into Lake Michigan and triple-bogeyed the seventh hole. He would eventually sign for an 81.

Phil Mickelson, who like Tiger Woods had spent much of the week running in place, got off to a blazing start Sunday, going six under for his first 14 holes, seven under for the tournament.

Alas, Mickelson could only manage pars on his next three holes, and bogeyed 18 to shoot 67 and tie for 12th place with three others.

"I felt like I've been playing and just letting shots slide here and there, and I played a good, solid round," Mickelson said.

His week will be remembered for his revelation that he's been diagnosed with a form of potentially chronic arthritis. He's been on medication to suppress his immune system from attacking his own joints, causing debilitating pain.

"I feel like nothing's wrong right now," Mickelson said Sunday. "I feel normal. It's gone; I don't want to say it's gone away, but all the symptoms have gone away and I feel great."

Woods shot a final-round 73 to finish two under overall, tied for 28th place.

"I didn't miss a shot for the first four holes," he said. "And then after that I hit it awful."

Still, it wasn't all bad for Woods, who worked on his swing with instructor Sean Foley, and looked much-improved from the player who shot 18 over the previous week.

"I asked him to take a look at my swing this week and give me some ideas of what he sees," Woods said. "I like some the things he had to say about my golf swing and where I needed to go. I like the direction because I was able to hit the shots that I used to be able to hit, feel-wise. The shape of the shots, too, was great. When you get that kind of contact again, it's good."

Woods finished 12th on the Ryder points list. He will need a captain's pick if he is to join Corey Pavin's U.S. side in Wales, Oct. 1-3.

Watney was hardly the only player to struggle Sunday. Wenchong Liang of China missed a tap-in on the first hole. McIlroy got off to an erratic start that required a handful of deft up-and-downs. Jason Day got hung up in the rough left of the ninth green and made double-bogey, all but ending his chances.

Kaymer said he was conscious of avoiding the big number, and he did so. He didn't make a double-bogey all week, and took 27 putts in his final-round 70.

He, Watson and Dustin Johnson will see each other again at the Ryder Cup in a month and a half.

"I was very, very calm in the playoff," Kaymer said. "You know, the pressure is kind of — it sounds strange, but the pressure is kind of like gone, because the worst you can is finish second."