Webb Simpson acknowledges the crowd en route to a five-stroke victory in the Players Championship. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
By John Strege
Webb Simpson kept the drama at bay on Sunday and closed out a four-stroke victory in the Players Championship on the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Simpson, 32, began the final round leading by seven strokes and shot a one-over-par 73 to win for the fifth time on the PGA Tour, but only his first victory since October 2013.
None of those nearest him on the leaderboard to begin the round were able to mount a threat and ramp up the pressure on Simpson, who made three birdies, two bogeys, 14 pars and an 18th-hole double-bogey.
Simpson, who won the U.S. Open in 2012 at the Olympic Club, opened with a 66 and was tied for the first-round lead. He equalled the course record with a 63 in the second round to open a five-stroke lead and followed with a four-under 68 on Saturday to increase his lead to seven, the largest 54-hole lead in tournament history. He completed 72 holes in 18-under-par 270.
“It was tough,” he said. “Being in that position’s a lot harder than I thought. You always want to be leading going into the final round and you would think to lead by seven’s great. But It’s hard to stay motivated to continue doing what you’re doing. But I had a good morning this morning and was able to get it done.”
His playing partner Danny Lee, who was alone in second to start the day, got within four through 10 holes, but Simpson’s two-putt birdie from 74 feet on the 11th hole again put him five ahead. Lee shot an even-par 72 and tied for seventh.
Jimmy Walker, Xander Schauffele and Charl Schwartzel tied for second.
Tiger Woods, meanwhile, got the crowd’s attention, if not Simpson’s. Woods made six birdies in 12 holes to move up to a tie for second before a bogey at 14 and a double-bogey at 17 sent him tumbling from the top 10. He posted a three-under par 69 and tied for 11th.
Justin Thomas also tied for 11th, and with Dustin Johnson tying for 17th, supplanted him as No. 1 in the World Ranking.