Tiger Woods won golf’s Players Championship for his fourth title in seven U.S. PGA Tour starts this season after former winner Sergio Garcia played the last two holes in 6-over par.
Woods and Garcia were tied for the lead yesterday when the Spaniard, who won golf’s richest tournament in 2008, hit two balls into the water on the par-3 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass’s Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
Woods closed with a 2-under-par 70 during the final round to finish with a four-round total of 13-under 275, two shots better than rookie David Lingmerth of Sweden and fellow Americans Kevin Streelman and Jeff Maggert. Woods received $1.71 million for his 78th career PGA Tour win, which came in his 300th start. He also won his 100th and 200th career starts.
“I feel like I’m getting better as the year’s going on, which is nice,” Woods, who was playing in his first event since his fourth-place finish at last month’s Masters Tournament, said in a news conference.
This is the earliest in Woods’s career that he’s had four wins in a season. In both 2000 and 2001, Woods notched his fourth win at the Memorial Tournament, which this year is scheduled for May 30 through June 2.
Woods, 37, had one previous top-10 finish at TPC Sawgrass since winning the Players Championship in 2001, placing eighth in 2009. Woods yesterday lost a three-shot lead when he had a double-bogey at the par-4 14th hole, while Garcia and Lingmerth made birdies at the 13th hole in the group behind.
“I was in control of the tournament and got to 14 tee and absolutely hit the worst shot I could possibly hit,” Woods said. “But I kept telling myself that’s the only bad swing I’ve made all day and there’s no reason I still can’t win.”
Woods regained the lead with a birdie at the par-5 16th hole before Garcia matched him. Garcia then made a quadruple-bogey 7 at the island-green 17th, which was the site of his playoff win over Paul Goydos at the 2008 tournament.
Garcia also hit his tee shot into the water at the 18th hole, leading to a double-bogey. Garcia finished in a tie for eighth place at 7-under par and his collapse came a day after a third-round dispute with Woods, who was his playing partner.
Garcia accused Woods of causing a distraction when he was about to hit a shot and later said in a Golf Channel interview that “we don’t enjoy each other’s company.”
“You want to beat everybody in that field, and if he’s in that field obviously you want to beat him,” Garcia said yesterday during his post-round news conference. “It’s always nice to have a chance at beating the No. 1 player in the world, but unfortunately for me I wasn’t able to this week.”
Lingmerth, 25, missed a birdie putt of about seven feet on the 17th hole and then wasn’t able to make a 61-foot birdie putt at the closing hole that would have forced a playoff. He bogeyed the 18th hole to drop to 11-under for the tournament, with the missed par putt costing him $316,667.
“I felt like I had a good couple of chances there towards the end and just didn’t putt very well,” said Lingmerth, who was playing in his 13th PGA Tour event and set a record for the best Players Championship finish by a rookie.
Maggert, who at 49 was seeking to become the oldest winner in the tournament’s 40-year history, was tied for the lead before making a double bogey at the 17th hole, where his tee shot came up short. It was just the second time in his career that Maggert hit a ball in the water at the 17th.
Woods parred the final two holes to join Jack Nicklaus, Steve Elkington, Hal Sutton, Fred Couples and Davis Love III with multiple titles at the Players Championship.
The PGA Tour now heads to Irving, Texas, for the $6.7 million HP Byron Nelson Championship, scheduled for May 16-19.