Tiger Woods’ final-round charge fell short as Webb Simpson held his nerve to win the Players Championship by four shots at TPC Sawgrass in Florida.
Simpson, seven clear overnight, shot a one-over 73 to triumph on 18 under and claim a first win since 2013.
Woods (69) birdied the 12th to close within four, but double bogeyed the par-three 17th to end on 11 under.
Charl Schwartzel, Jimmy Walker and Xander Schauffele all carded 67 to finish tied for second on 14 under.
Dustin Johnson’s run of 64 weeks as world number one comes to an end after he could only manage a level-par 72 to finish tied for 17th.
Fellow American Justin Thomas takes over after his six-under-par closing round moved him into a tie for 11th with the likes of Woods, Ian Poulter (69) and Brooks Koepka, who had an albatross two in a course record-equalling 63.
Poulter finished one behind fellow Englishman Tommy Fleetwood (68), while Justin Rose, who was among the early starters, reeled off six birdies in seven holes at the start of the back nine en route to finishing nine under.
Worth the wait for Webb
Simpson of the United States fell short of posting the biggest victory margin in the tournament’s history – seven strokes by Steve Elkington in 1997 – as he claimed the $1.98m (£1.46m) winner’s cheque.
There was a slender chance the 32-year-old could have become the first player to surrender a lead of more than six strokes in the final round of a PGA Tour event as Woods and Danny Lee (72) closed in at the start of the back nine.
But Simpson’s birdie at the 11th – as Woods bogeyed the 14th – turned the momentum back in his favour, having shipped two shots in three holes around the turn after playing the first nine holes in even par.
With the chasing pack running out of steam, Simpson added a birdie at the par-five 16th for extra insurance.
He headed onto the final tee with a six-shot advantage, having safely negotiated the signature par-three 17th island green, and had the luxury of dropping two shots after finding water with his approach to the green.
Simpson was the only player inside the top 40 to sign for an over-par final round, but earlier efforts of 66, 63 and 68 had laid the foundations for the win.
“It feels great,” Simpson told Sky Sports. “I am exhausted. It was a long day. It’s probably harder work to be ahead by five or six. I learned from it, I battled through.
“I didn’t have my best stuff but it was good enough.”
Guess who’s back?
Woods may have fallen short of a fairytale comeback win, which would have meant a third Players Championship title, but Sunday’s display proved the 14-time major champion is back.
The former world number one played only one event in 2016 and three in 2017 due to his injury problems, which left him outside of the top 1,000 in the world rankings at one point.
But the 42-year-old has managed eight events in 2018, with this finish just short of a third top 10 in his past five outings.
Woods, beginning the final round 11 shots behind Simpson, holed three successive birdies from the second and knocked in another on the ninth.
He added birdies on the 11th and 12th to put pressure on Simpson, who struggled around the turn.
However, a bogey at the par-four 14th, having taken four shots from 100 yards following a drive of 354 yards, halted Woods’ bid for a first win since August 2013.
He then found water off the tee at the 17th and missed a short bogey putt to drop two more shots.
“I really played well this weekend, hit the ball well, and felt good with the putter. I had the speed of the greens and I knew the worm was going to turn,” Woods told Sky Sports.
It is unclear when Woods will next play, although he is committed to playing at June’s US Open and The Open at Carnoustie in July.
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/golf/44103464