Justin Thomas recorded his 14th victory on the PGA Tour
|-14 J Thomas (USA); -13 L Westwood (Eng); -12 B. DeChambeau (USA), B. Harman (USA); -11 P. Casey (Eng), T. Gooch (USA); -10 C Conners (Can),|
|Selected others:-9 S Lowry (Irish); -8th M. Fitzpatrick (Eng), S. Garcia (Spa); -1 D Johnson (USA), J Spieth (USA)|
Justin Thomas came out on a hectic final day and won the Players Championship in one fell swoop when Lee Westwood finished second for the second straight year.
The world number three spawned sensational golf to take a four-under-68 win when he came back from three and won his 14th PGA Tour title to 14 under.
Westwood led into the action at TPC Sawgrass on Sunday but was pushed back to the top nine after a wobble.
He finished one in front of Bryson DeChambeau, who defeated him last week.
The American Brian Harman made three birdies on the back nine and finished two backs with 12 under par.
Englishman Paul Casey threatened a challenge but his five birdies were offset by three bogies, leaving him 11 under par for the tournament.
American Talor Gooch also ended the pace of 27-year-old Thomas three points behind, followed by Canada’s Corey Conners.
Thomas plays in the last showdown
It was billed as a rematch, with Westwood and DeChambeau facing each other in the second group of the PGA Tour in the final group.
The American had taken a one-stroke win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational seven days ago, but it was Westwood who got off to a quick start on Sunday when he opened with a birdie.
What followed was madness. Westwood found the water at two and turned around before cutting his tee shot into another water hazard at par fourth, but only after DeChambeau – the longest rider on tour – topped his tee shot 100 yards into another body of water.
DeChambeau then licked his third shot down the cart path before taking a wonderful recovery to escape with a double bogey while Westwood cleaned up for just one shot of his own.
World number six was seventh before they both fell again at eight, but when Westwood regained his two-shot lead with a well-made birdie at nine, it looked like the rest of the field hadn’t taken advantage of their fights.
Lee Westwood finished second on the PGA Tour for the second year running
What the latest golf rivalry didn’t rely on was the sudden appearance of world number three Thomas, who finished eighth but moved up to first place after birdie, birdie, eagle, birdie, to come under par after 12-14 achieve and give yourself a two-stroke lead.
Thomas had entered the competition with an eight-under-64-year-old on Saturday and then admitted that this season he had “had a fair share of lows” and “a lot of spiritual things I never had to deal with “.
The American was dumped by clothing brand Ralph Lauren after TV microphones picked him up with a homophobic bow during the Sentry Tour of Champions in Hawaii in January, while he also lost his grandfather earlier this year.
An unusual missed putt on the 14th, his first of three feet this season, brought his advantage to one before Westwood scored an excellent birdie at 14, only Thomas kept his nerves clear with a birdie again 16.
US Open Champion DeChambeau drew the same hole to move in front of the Thomas within two minutes but failed to close the gap further and had to regret his early double bogey.
Westwood has won 44 professional tournaments, has won victories in four different decades, and won the Order of Merit European Tour title for the third time in December to become the oldest Race to Dubai champion.
But the 47-year-old hasn’t won the St. Jude Classic on the PGA Tour since June 2010. After only parrying the long 16th after two sand drives, he putted three times on the legendary island of Green 17 on a bogey hole and the player’s title was as good as gone.
Thomas managed a par at 18 to sign for a 68, and although Westwood’s last birdie was Westwood’s first win since the WGC-St Jude Invitational in August.
“It’s been a long year, but they (my family) always support me so much,” said Thomas. “If you are in a difficult situation mentally or if you are not feeling well, it is enormous to have such a support system.”
Westwood goes to Augusta to recover
Westwood, who will turn 48 next month, looked relaxed on his bag during his last run with girlfriend Helen Storey but said he felt that age would catch up with him on the last day in Florida.
World number 31 will rebound by playing his son Sam for the first time this week with 36 holes at Augusta National. Sam will then be Westwood’s caddy at next month’s Masters.
“When you’re in competition, you want to win every tournament you play,” said Westwood, whose 72nd Sunday was the only time he couldn’t break par all week.
“I didn’t quite have my game – on Saturday I felt like my legs were just a little tired and weak. [on Sunday] I didn’t feel like I had my legs under me. I took shots that I normally don’t.
“I fought all day, made some nice putts, a little disappointed that I didn’t win, but you can’t be too unhappy with a second place in the Players Championship.
“It just goes to show that I’m playing really well and that my game is still good enough to win here. Something to work on and hopefully charge the battery and continue this run.”