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Golf: Simpson coasts to Players title; Woods' Sunday run undone by bogeys on the back nine

Field Level Media
May 13. 2018 9:04PM
Webb Simpson celebrates winning The Players Championship golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass - Stadium Course. (John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)

No one in PGA Tour history has ever lost with a seven-stroke lead entering the final round of a tournament, and Webb Simpson kept that record intact Sunday at The Players Championship.

Simpson was nowhere near as sharp or aggressive as he was in the first three rounds, but he shot a 1-over-par 73 for the final round and finished at 18-under 270 to win by four shots on the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, Jimmy Walker and Xander Schauffele tied for second at 14 under par, with Jason Day of Australia and Jason Dufner knotted in fifth another stroke in arrears.

The victory was Simpson’s fifth of his PGA Tour career, his first since he captured the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas in 2014, and his biggest since he won the 2012 U.S. Open.

Simpson is the ninth player to win both a U.S. Open and a Players title, joining Tiger Woods, Germany’s Martin Kaymer, Lee Janzen, Tom Kite, Raymond Floyd, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Jerry Pate.

It was all but a given that Simpson would win after he blitzed the course over the first three days. The rest of the strongest field in golf was playing for second place in the event considered to be professional golf’s “fifth major.”

He had three birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey (on the closing hole) on his scorecard for the final round.

“I really wanted to do this for my mom,” Simpson said after winning the tournament on Mother’s Day. “It was tough to stay in the moment. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. You always want to be leading going into the final round, and leading by seven is great, but it’s hard to stay motivated to continue to do what you’ve been doing.”

Simpson took home $1.98 million for his victory; only the U.S. Open pays more. The win also granted him PGA Tour membership for the next five years and three-year exemptions into all four majors.

It had been 106 starts since his last win.

Plenty of players had great rounds on Sunday, but none made a serious run at the leader.

Schwartzel, Walker and Schauffele, last year’s Rookie of the Year, each shot 67 in the final round, but they were nothing but an afterthought.

Dufner shot 68 but left putts for birdie short on both the 12th and 13th holes, and then he three-putted the 18th for a bogey.

New Zealand’s Danny Lee, who was in the final group with Simpson on Sunday, missed three short putts on holes 9, 10 and 11 that could have put some pressure on Simpson. However, he was still was tied for second at 14 under when he hit his drive at the short par-4 12th into the pond to the left of the green and settled for bogey, all but ending any chance he had to catch the leader.

Reigning U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka ripped off a 9-under 63 on Sunday, equaling the course record that Simpson tied as well on Friday, joining seven others who have toured the course in that number of strokes. He wound up tied for 11th at 11 under.

Koepka, who was in his third start back after from a long injury layoff caused by a torn wrist ligament, started the final round 17 shots behind Simpson. He holed his second shot on the par-5 16th for an albatross, birdied the 17th but parred the closing hole when a birdie would have given him the course record.

Woods put a charge into the final round with six birdies in his first 12 holes to move into a tie for second, at that point just four strokes off the lead. However, he bogeyed the 14th and double-bogeyed the 17th after hitting his tee shot into the water for the first time since 2006.

“I played really good the whole weekend,” Woods said during the NBC Sports broadcast. “I hit it so good today, so to not really mishit a shot all day and shoot 3 under par is just weird. Had a chance this weekend. Unfortunately I just didn’t cash in.”

Woods ended up tied for 11th at 277 along with Koepka, Chesson Hadley, Australia’s Adam Scott, Justin Thomas and England’s Ian Poulter.


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