Even with a double bogey on the last hole, Webb Simpson strolled to a four-shot victory at The Players Championship on Sunday.
It wasn’t a spectacular final round by any means, but it didn’t need to be. Heading in to the final day with a seven-shot cushion, Simpson’s one-over 73 saw him complete a dominant victory at TPC Sawgrass over his nearest challengers.
Armed with a six shot lead on the 18th, Simpson sent his approach shot in to the water on the left hand side of the green. A penalty drop, a chip and two putts was a slightly flat way to end a brilliant week, but it was still more than good enough to secure his fifth PGA Tour victory – and first since 2013.
Simpson’s outstanding play of the first three days wasn’t quite matched on Sunday, reaching the turn in level par after a birdie-bogey run on the seventh and eighth holes. After another dropped shot on the 10th, he briefly reached 20-under-par thanks to gains on both of the par 5s on the back nine (11 and 16) before dropping back to 18-under at the last.
His win comes seven months after losing his father last November, and afterwards Simpson talked about how much it meant to win on Mother’s Day.
“I thought about him all day,” Simpson said. “I think it’s been an emotional week for my mom and sisters and my brother. We miss him like crazy, but I really wanted to do this for my mom.”
“I thought before he passed that maybe the golf course would be the hardest place to be … but I think it’s my favorite place to be. That was where we had most of our memories was on the golf course.”
The 32-year-old also credited the support of his wife Dowd as he picked up his first trophy since winning the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in 2013.
“We’ve spent the last few years, many dinners with me in tears being frustrated about my golf game, and she was right there the whole time just supporting me, encouraging me to work hard.”
Charl Schwartzel, Jimmy Walker and Xander Schauffele all finished in a tie for second at 14-under-par, with Wells Fargo winner Jason Day tied a shot further back with Jason Dufner.
Tommy Fleetwood, who has moved in to the World’s top 10 for the first time following his performance at TPC Sawgrass, finished in a tie for 7th with Keegan Bradley, Danny Lee and Harold Varner III.
Tiger showed more promising signs
He barely made the cut line, yet Tiger Woods put on an impressive display during a front nine 32 on Sunday, briefly getting to within four of the lead and looking like he might put pressure on Simpson.
A missed birdie putt on the 10th stalled his momentum, and despite back-to-back birdies on 11 and 12, he struggled on the last few holes.
The 14th hole had been somewhat of a nemesis for Woods this week, and it did him no favours on Sunday. He hadn’t been able to find the fairway on that hole all week, and after bombing a 354 yard drive down the fairway, it seemed his fortunes had turned. Instead, he spinned his wedge off the front of the green and failed to get up and down for par.
Finding the water and ending up with a double bogey on the 17th dropped him in a tie for 11th place, and Woods felt he played much better than the 3-under-par round he shot.
“I felt good in basically every facet of the game, and it’s weird, not to really mishit a shot today and only shoot 3-under par is just weird, because I played much better than that,” Woods said after his round.
Justin Thomas replaces Dustin Johnson as World No.1
Thomas, who is the fourth youngest player to become World No.1 (after Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy), ended Dustin Johnson’s 64-week run at the top of the rankings as he gains the top spot for the first time.
The 25-year-old is the 21st player in history to become World No.1 after posting rounds of 73-70-68-66 at The Players Championship to finish in a tie for 11th with five others, including Tiger Woods. DJ needed to finish inside the top 12 to hold on to his position in the rankings, but a disappointing one-over-par 72 final round saw him finish T17.
“It means a lot, but it’s something I want to have for a long time,” said Thomas. “It’s not something I just want to have once. Like D.J. has and like Tiger did and other guys who have had it for a long time, that’s more of a goal of mine as opposed to just having it.”
WITB: Webb Simpson
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