|-14 J Thomas (United States); -13 L Westwood (English); -12 B DeChambeau (United States), B Harman (United States); -11 P Casey (Eng), T Gooch (United States); -ten C Conners (Can),|
|Selection of others:-9 S Lowry (Ire); -8 M Fitzpatrick (Eng), S Garcia (Spa); -1 D Johnson (United States), J Spieth (United States)|
Justin Thomas emerged on a hectic final day to win the Players Championship all at once as Lee Westwood finished second for a second straight week.
The world number three produced sensational golf to display a four under 68 as he came down three backs to win his 14th PGA Tour title on 14 under.
Westwood led ahead of Sunday’s action at TPC Sawgrass, but was pushed back after a top-nine swing.
He finished one ahead of Bryson DeChambeau, who beat him last week.
American Brian Harman had three birdies on the back nine to finish two backs 12 under par.
England’s Paul Casey threatened to challenge, but his five birdies were offset by three bogeys to leave him 11 below par for the tournament.
American Talor Gooch also finished three times at the pace set by Thomas, 27, with Canada’s Corey Conners another shot behind.
Thomas built up his muscles in the final showdown
It was billed as the rematch, with Westwood and DeChambeau facing off in the final group for the second week in a row on the PGA Tour.
The American picked up a one-stroke victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational seven days ago, but it was Westwood who got off to a quick start on Sunday by starting with a birdie.
What followed was madness. Westwood found the water two-handed and bogeyed, before slicing his four-way tee shot in another water hazard, but only after DeChambeau – the longest touring driver – passed his tee shot at 100 meters in a different body of water.
DeChambeau then disclosed his third shot on the cart path before making a wonderful recovery to escape with a double bogey, while Westwood put away for a single drop shot.
The world number six birdied in the seventh before dropping to eight again, but when Westwood reclaimed his two-stroke lead with a well-made nine-birdie, it looked like the rest of the field had failed to capitalize on their struggles.
What the new golf rivalry hadn’t capitalized on was the sudden emergence of world number three Thomas, who bogeyed eighth but surged up to first place after being birdie, birdie, eagle, birdie to reach 14 under the normal on the 12th and give yourself a racing lead.
Thomas had made his way into contention with an Under-64 eight on Saturday, later admitting that he had experienced “a good deal of trough this season” and “a lot of things mentally that I never had. to manage”.
The American was ditched by clothing brand Ralph Lauren after TV microphones caught him using a homophobic slur during the Sentry Tour of Champions in Hawaii in January, while the 27-year-old also lost his grandfather earlier this year.
An unusual miss putt in the 14th, his first three-foot indoors this season, saw his advantage reduced to one before Westwood joined him in the lead with a superb birdie at 14, only to keep Thomas cool. and his advantage once again at 16.
Westwood has won 44 professional tournaments, achieved victories over four different decades and won the European Tour Order of Merit title for the third time in December, becoming the longest-serving Race to Dubai champion.
But the 47-year-old hasn’t won the PGA Tour since June 2010 at the St. Jude Classic and when he bugged 17, the players’ title was anything but Thomas’s.
He polished a par at 18 to sign for a 68 and, although Westwood birdied the last, recorded his first win since the WGC-St Jude Invitational in August.
“It’s been a long year, but they (my family) still support me so much,” Thomas said. “When you’re in a tough situation mentally or just don’t feel so good, having a support system like this is huge.”
Westwood heads to Augusta to recover
Westwood, who will turn 48 next month, appeared relaxed in his recent period of form, with his girlfriend Helen Storey on his bag, but said he felt like age was catching up to him on the last day in Florida.
He’ll recover by taking his son, Sam, to play 36 holes at Augusta National for the first time this week before setting up for him at the Masters next month.
“When you’re in contention you would love to win every tournament you play,” said Westwood, whose 72 on Sunday was the only time he failed to beat par this week.
“I wasn’t quite my game – on Saturday I felt like my legs were getting a little tired and weak, [on Sunday] I didn’t feel like I had my legs under me. I was hitting punches that I usually don’t hit.
“I fought all day, had some great putts, a little disappointed that I didn’t win but you can’t be too unhappy with a second place finish in the Players Championship.
“It just shows that I’m playing really well and my game is still good enough to win here. Something to work on and hopefully recharge the battery and keep running.”