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Tiger Nails Down Second Players Title in Exciting Fashion
Thanks to some steady play and a huge mistake by Sergio Garcia, Tiger Woods logged his fourth title of the year and it was a big one, the richest tournament in golf, the $9.5 million Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Woods posted five birdies, a bogey and a double-bogey on the par-4 14th hole to close with a 2-under 70 and a 72-hole total of 13-under 275. Sharing second two strokes back were Kevin Streelman (67), Jeff Maggert (70) and 54-hole leader David Lingmerth (72).
Tied with Woods at 13-under before teeing off on the famed island green at the 17th, Garcia hit not one, but two, wedge shots off the tee into the water hazard surrounding the putting surface. The misfires were costly as the Spaniard ended up with a quadruple-bogey seven to ruin any chance for his second win in the Players.
The 33-year-old then pulled his tee shot into the water on the par-4 18th and finished with a double-bogey for a 4-over 76 to drop into a tie for eighth at 7-under 281.
Sweden's Lingmerth was only stroke back of Woods - who two-putted from 30 feet on 17 and parred the last - teeing off the 18th. Just earlier, the 25-year-old who attended college at the University of West Florida and then the University of Arkansas, hit a daring shot on the 17th to seven feet. Though the pin was tucked very near the hazard in the lower-right-hand corner of the green Lingmerth's gambling play left him with a makeable uphill birdie putt that would have tied Woods for the lead. But he rolled it past the cup and tapped in for par.
Still a stroke back on 18, Lingmerth pushed his drive on 18 into the first cut of rough along the right. His approach from there stopped 50 feet above the hole. When he missed his long birdie try - actually sending it onto the fringe, from where he missed a crucial par that would have given him the biggest paycheck of his career, Woods secured his 78th PGA Tour victory (in only 300 starts) and his second Players title - the first since 2001.
Woods was in solo first when he arrived on the 14th tee, but he came back to the field after the double. "It was tough," Woods told a TV reporter of the hard-and-fast conditions on the Pete Dye-designed course.
"I was in control of the tournament and got to 14 tee and just hit the worst shot I could possibly hit. And then, you know, made double-bogey there but just stayed really patient. I kept telling myself, 'That's the only bad swing I've made all day and there's no reason why I can't still win this golf tournament.'
"I kept telling myself I was playing well . . . I told myself I could still win the tournament." When he did, Woods became the fifth player with two victories at Sawgrass, joining Steve Elkington, Hal Sutton, Fred Couples and Davis Love III.
Woods said he was a bit confounded all day by the greens. "Had a lot of double-breaking putts - kept having Joey (LaCava - his caddie) help read them." Woods then added of Fred Couples' former looper, "He did a helluva job keeping me focused."
When asked what it was like to reach the earliest point in a season during his fabled career with four victories, he succinctly told a TV reporter, "I'm getting better."
The 2013 Players' title was also the first time Woods has won on a Mother's Day. "Sorry Mom - she's probably having a heart attack watching this back home," joked the No. 1-ranked player in the world.
Sharing fifth at 10-under 278 were Scotland's Martin Laird (67), Sweden's Henrik Stenson (72) and Ryan Palmer (72). Tied for eighth at 281 were Rory McIlroy (70), Ben Crane (69), Brandt Snedeker (70), Aussie Marc Leishman (72), England's Lee Westwood (72), Casey Wittenberg (75) and Garcia.
Garcia played in the last group with Lingmerth, while Woods was in the penultimate twosome with Wittenberg. Because a storm came through Sawgrass mid-afternoon Saturday, Woods and Garcia - playing in the final group in the third round - were forced to complete their last four holes Sunday morning before starting the final round. Garcia bogeyed 15 but birdied the par-4 16th and the iconic 17th - with a par at the last - to complete a 72. Woods birdied the 16th and parred the other three holes, setting up Sunday's dramatic conclusion.
Garcia was miffed with Woods early Saturday - and repeated his irritation in a TV interview during the storm delay - when he thought Woods was discourteous by drawing a club in the middle of Garcia's second shot on the par-5 second hole. The resultant roar from the surrounding gallery purportedly caused Garcia to hit his approach from 275 way right, leading to a bogey.
But on Sunday Woods had nothing to do with Garcia's mistakes on the last two holes, especially the 17th when the Spaniard splashed two straight balls into the water to lose any chance of adding a second Players' title to his 2008 victory, when he beat Paul Goydos in a sudden-death playoff by hitting to four feet on, yes, the 17th at Sawgrass.
"That hole has been good to me for the most part," Garcia told PGATour.com. "Today it wasn't. That's the way it is. That's the kind of hole it is. You've got to love it for what it is."
Vying to become the oldest Players' winner in history, the 49-year-old Maggert was also undone when he hit into the water on the 17th. Though he birdied the 18th, Maggert fell just short of logging his first Tour title since the FedEx St. Jude Classic in 2006.
Lingmerth told PGATour.com he was disappointed at not coming through when he needed to down the stretch. "I really don't feel like I put the pedal to the metal today," he said. "I felt like I left a lot of shots out there. I shot even-par, which is not a bad score out there, but I feel like I could have done a lot better, and that's why that's leaving a little sour taste right now."
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