What a hell of a tournament! — whether it was Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods throwing handbags at each other or dunking balls in water hazards at crucial points on Sunday or someone missing and making a game-changing putt, there was no shortage of drama at TPC Sawgrass.
In the end, Woods captured his 78th PGA Tour victory, only four shy of Sam Snead’s all-time record of 82, and his second Players Championship title, not to mention his fourth win of the year, marking the earliest he’s achieved that feat in any season.
In firm and fast conditions on a penal track, Woods held off valiant efforts by Sergio, rookie David Lingmerth, 49-year-old Jeff Maggert and Kevin Streelman to win by two strokes.
It appeared like Woods would cruise to victory after a birdie on no. 12, but TPC Sawgrass, a course he called tricky repeatedly throughout the week, wasn’t going to let him off that easily.
Tiger hit a high hook into the hazard on the par-4 14th, which hasn’t been his favorite tee shot all week, leading to a double-bogey that erased his two-shot lead. But he dug deep and grinded coming down the stretch to play the remaining four holes one-under.
“It was a tough battle,” said Woods, who shot a tournament total 13-under. “I mean, the golf course played tricky today. It was fast and difficult, and I hit it so good today, it was fun. I hit it high, low, left to right, right to left, whatever I wanted, except for that tee shot at 14.
“I didn’t really miss a whole lot of shots. I pured a lot of putts, too. Could have been something pretty low today, just had a bunch of lipouts. But they were all good putts, and we were joking on the front nine, through nine, Joey said, you might want to hit a bad putt, maybe it might go in. So I hit one on 14.”
He told himself to forget about it because he hadn’t missed it like that all week. And then he hit what he said may have been the best shot of the tournament, a “high-inside fast ball,” as he described in his post-round press conference.
A crucial point came at the par-4 15th, where he found more trouble, missing the green and leaving himself short-sided with a difficult up-and-down.
“The shot that turned the tide was the putt (for par) on 15,” said Woods, who shot a final-round one-under 70. “To go double bogey-bogey would have been huge. But to save a putt there and get some momentum going to the next three holes was big.”
Tiger has won seven of his last 22 events and 78 times out of 286 starts (27%). He has now converted 52 of 56 third-round leads/co-leads in 72-hole tournaments, including his last six. The 14-time major champion joins Hal Sutton, Fred Couples, Steve Elkington, Davis Love III and Jack Nicklaus, as the only multiple-winners of the Players Championship in its 40-year history.
“I hadn’t played really well here since 2000, 2001,” said Woods. “This golf course has been a little bit tricky over the years, and I’m not the only one who’s struggled with it. It’s a tough course. Fortunately I think this year I’ve been playing really well, and the last tournament I played in, I played really well.
“So coming here I was pretty confident in what I was doing. I was hitting the golf ball well. And the way I was playing at Augusta, I was shaping the golf ball both ways and controlling my trajectory, and I thought that was important coming into this week.”
Tiger’s next start will be in two weeks at The Memorial Tournament, the home of Jack Nicklaus, where Woods has won seven times. I mean, is there anyone who doesn’t think he’ll notch his fifth victory of the season there?
Meanwhile, David Lingmerth take a bow. Everyone thought you’d implode on Sunday, but you held your own. The 25-year-old native of Sweden, playing for the 13th time in his PGA Tour career, set a new mark for the best finish by a rookie at The Players. The previous best was T3 by both Fulton Allem in 1988 and Camilo Villegas in 2003. Lingmerth’s bogey on the closing hole that dropped him to a three-way tie for second cost him $316,667. I’m sure he won’t lose any sleep over it. After all, the three-putt bogey happened because he was aggressive with his birdie putt in order to try and force a playoff with Woods.
PGA TOUR Victories (78 total; 14 major championships):
1996 Las Vegas Invitational, Walt Disney World/Oldsmobile Classic.
1997 Mercedes Championships, Masters Tournament, GTE Byron Nelson Classic, Motorola Western Open.
1998 BellSouth Classic.
1999 Buick Invitational, the Memorial Tournament, Motorola Western Open, 81st PGA Championship, World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational, National Car Rental Golf Classic at Walt Disney World Resort, THE TOUR Championship, World Golf Championships-American Express Championship.
2000 Mercedes Championships, AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Bay Hill Invitational, the Memorial Tournament, 100th U.S. Open Championship, British Open Championship, 82nd PGA Championship, World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational, Bell Canadian Open.
2001 Bay Hill Invitational, THE PLAYERS Championship, Masters Tournament, the Memorial Tournament, World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational.
2002 Bay Hill Invitational, Masters, U.S. Open, Buick Open, World Golf Championships-American Express Championship.
2003 Buick Invitational, World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, Bay Hill Invitational, 100th Western Open, World Golf Championships-American Express Championship.
2004 World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
2005 Buick Invitational, Ford Championship at Doral, Masters Tournament, British Open Championship, World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational, World Golf Championships-American Express Championship.
2006 Buick Invitational, Ford Championship at Doral, British Open Championship, Buick Open, 88th PGA Championship, World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, Deutsche Bank Championship, World Golf Championships-American Express Championship.
2007 Buick Invitational, World Golf Championships-CA Championship, Wachovia Championship, World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, PGA Championship, BMW Championship, THE TOUR Championship
2008 Buick Invitational, World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational, U.S. Open
2009 Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Memorial Tournament, AT&T National, Buick Open, World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, BMW Championship
2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Memorial Tournament, AT&T National
2013 Farmers Insurance Open, World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational, THE PLAYERS
71 victories in 16 different states
16 Florida (Arnold Palmer Invitational–7-2000-03, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013; FUNAI Classic at Walt Disney World Resort—2-1996, 1999, Ford Championship at Doral—2-2005-06, WGC-Cadillac Championship–2-2007, 2013; THE PLAYERS Championship—2-2001, 2013)
14 California (AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am–1-2000; Mercedes Championships–1-1997, Farmers Insurance Open–7-1999, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007; 2008; 2013, U.S. Open–2-2000, 2008; WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship–2-2003, 2004; American Express Championship–1-2005).
12 Ohio (WGC-Bridgestone Invitational—7-1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009; the Memorial Tournament—5-1999, 2000, 2001, 2009, 2012).
7 Georgia (Masters Tournament—4-1997, 2001, 2002, 2005; BellSouth Classic—1-1998; WGC-American Express Championship—1-2003; THE TOUR Championship—1 -2007)
7 Illinois (BMW Championship—5-1997, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2009; PGA Championship—2-1999, 2006
3 Michigan (Buick Open—2-2002, 2006, 2009)
2 Texas (EDS Byron Nelson Championship—1-1997, THE TOUR Championship–1-1999)
2 Maryland (AT&T National—2009, 2012)
1 Hawaii (Mercedes Championships—1-2000)
Kentucky (PGA Championship—1-2000)
Nevada (Las Vegas Invitational—1-1996)
New York (U.S. Open—1-2002)
Massachusetts (Deutsche Bank Championship—1-2006
North Carolina (Wachovia Championship—1-2007)
Oklahoma (PGA Championship—1-2007)
Arizona (WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship—1-2008)
Outside U.S. (7)
2 Scotland (British Open–2-2000, 2005)
2 England (British Open—1-2006; Amex-Championship—1-2006)
1 Canada (Bell Canadian Open–1-2000)
1 Ireland (WGC-American Express Championship–1-2002)
1 Spain (WGC-American Express Championship–1-1999)
Major Championship Victories (14):
1997 Masters Tournament
1999 PGA Championship
2000 U.S. Open Championship
2000 British Open Championship
2000 PGA Championship
2001 Masters Tournament
2002 Masters Tournament
2002 U.S. Open Championship
2005 Masters Tournament
2005 British Open Championship
2006 British Open Championship
2006 PGA Championship
2007 PGA Championship
2008 U.S. Open
International Victories (11):
1997 Asian Honda Classic
1998 Johnnie Walker Classic
1999 Deutsche Bank Open-TPC of Europe, World Cup of Golf (individual)
2000 Johnnie Walker Classic
2001 Deutsche Bank-SAP Open TPC of Europe
2002 Deutsche Bank-SP Open TPC of Europe
2004 Dunlop Phoenix
2005 Dunlop Phoenix
2006 Dubai Desert Classic
2008 Dubai Desert Classic
(AP Photo/John Raoux)