Perennial bridesmaid Clark ends U.S. title drought

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida, (Reuters) – South African  Tim Clark ended an eight-year title drought on the PGA Tour by  charging past overnight leader Lee Westwood to win the Players  Championship by one shot yesterday.

An electrifying run of five birdies in six holes around the  turn put Clark a stroke in front of the chasing pack on a  difficult day for scoring at the TPC Sawgrass.

He coolly parred the last six holes for a flawless  five-under-par 67 and a 16-under total of 272 to clinch the  tournament widely considered the “fifth major” by the players.

Australian Robert Allenby birdied two of the last five  holes for a 70 to finish second while world number four  Westwood had to settle for a tie for fourth at 12-under after  dumping his tee shot into water at the 17th en route to a 74.

U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover covered the back nine in a  scintillating five-under for a closing 70 and third place at  14-under.
Clark, a perennial bridesmaid on the U.S. circuit who had  finished runner-up eight times in 205 career starts, fired the  day’s lowest round for his long-awaited PGA Tour breakthrough.

“It has been a long time on this tour … I just hoped it  would happen one day,” the 34-year-old South African said with  a broad smile in a television interview.

“I came out today and showed what I can do on the golf  course. That was as good as I could play. I tried to play away  from the flags I couldn’t go at … but I felt I hit every shot  I wanted to today.”

For much of a sun-splashed and breezy afternoon, playing  partners Westwood and Allenby appeared to be duelling for the  tournament in the final pairing.

The Australian, who spectacularly eagled the par-five  second when he chipped in from greenside rough, twice edged  ahead before the Englishman regained control with an outward  nine of one-under 35.

Clark, who had started the final round three strokes behind  Westwood, was meanwhile steadily chipping away at the lead.
He launched his sizzling birdie run by knocking in a  10-footer at the seventh and then coaxed in an 18-footer at the  ninth to trail by two.
The South African, a three-times winner on the European  Tour, picked up further shots at the 10th and 11th before  draining another 18-footer at the 12th, where he dropped to his  knees in relief, to take the outright lead for the first time.

Although he narrowly missed a five-foot birdie putt at the  par-five 16th for a three-shot cushion, he kept his cool and  nervelessly sank an eight-footer to save par on the 18th green.

Westwood slipped further back with a bogey at the 14th  after he missed the fairway well right off the tee. His title  bid effectively ended when his tee shot on 17 ended up in water  just short of the island green.

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