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.