Webb Simpson had taken a seven-shot lead into the final round of the Players Championship and he didn’t falter from there, firing a final round 73 to win by four shots at TPC Sawgrass.
Three golfers, including South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel, were tied for the runners’-up spot, but they never looked like getting to the American who dominated the tournament from the first round. While he equalled and broke 36-hole and 54-hole records along the way, Simpson didn’t need to do anything spectacular in the final round, and his 73 left him on 18-under 270 at the end.
Schwartzel closed with a 67 for 274 – how he must rue that third round 73 – to move up to 58th in the Race to the FedExCup rankings and he shared second position with Americans Jimmy Walker and Xander Schauffele.
Tiger Woods had a 69 to finish in a tie for 11th on 277. The three other South Africans to make the cut – Rory Sabbatini, Branden Grace and Tyrone van Aswegen – finished tied 30th (67, 71, 71, 71 for 280), tied 46th (Grace closing with a 70 for 283) and tied 66th (Van Aswegen ending on 285 after a final round 74).
Several low morning scores (highlighted by a 63 from Brooks Koepka) showed that the course would be yielding plenty of red numbers. As the lead groups teed off in the afternoon, challengers rose to meet Simpson. Playing partner Danny Lee birdied the 2nd and then hit his tee shot at the par-three 3rd inside a foot to get within five shots of the lead, but Simpson answered with a neat sand save from the left bunker. Simpson stayed steady with pars at the first six holes before receiving a bonus birdie when a 33-footer dropped at the 7th.
He’d give that shot back after lipping out for par at the 8th, but Simpson still held a wide advantage as he made the turn after a front-nine 36. Roars echoed ahead of Simpson as Tiger Woods made birdies at the 11th and 12th to get to 14 under and Simpson’s par putt again shot around the lip and out at the 10th. Suddenly his advantage was just four shots over a group that included Woods and Lee.
But Simpson responded with two solid shots at the reachable par-five 11th to set up a four-footer for birdie. He hit the next four greens but was content to two-putt for par before easily handling the par-five 16th.
There was only one test remaining: the island-green par-three 17th. Simpson wisely fired away from the flag, and his wedge settled safely on the fat of the green. A double bogey at the 18th reduced the final margin of victory but did little to change the story of the day: that Webb Simpson, winner for the first time since 2013, had earned a commanding victory over a field of the best golfers in the world.
The win is the fifth of Simpson’s PGA Tour career and the biggest since the 2012 US Open.
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