The typical stress that Sawgrass brings on Sunday was contained to the final hour, and it was almost more than Kaymer could take. He was sailing along until the lightning flashes and rain forced the rain delay. He had a three-shot lead with five holes left and was a different player when the round resumed.
He made double bogey from an aggressive play behind a pine tree on the 15th. He nervously chose putter from a collection area on the par-5 16th that turned a simple chance at birdie into a par.
Nothing could top the 17th hole, the most exciting on the Stadium Course. When his chip shot stopped just inside 30 feet from the hole, and bogey looked certain, Kaymer figured he still had one more hole. He couldn't see the line in the approaching darkness, though he remembered it from practice rounds.
When it dropped, he walked to the side and slammed his clenched fist in celebration, rare emotion for the German.
"Making a putt like this is more than big," he said. "I think I will realize it the next few days."
Kaymer finished at 13-under 275 and joined an elite group by winning the biggest event on golf's strongest tour. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott are the only other players to win a major, a World Golf Championship and The Players Championship.
For Spieth, it was his second big tournament in the final group. Tied for the lead through seven holes, he dropped shots to Kaymer on each of the next four holes — two bogeys by Spieth, two birdies by Kaymer.
Kaymer had just over 3 feet left for par on the 18th, and it made him think of his winning putt to beat Steve Stricker and ensure that Europe kept the Ryder Cup at Medinah two years ago. The celebration was different. This was for him, and a long journey back from when he won the 2010 PGA Championship, reached No. 1 in the world six months later, and then set out to improve his swing to avoid being a one-dimensional player.
"When I was standing over the putt, I just thought, 'It would be really nice to make that putt now, would be a very nice way to finish,'" he said.