Ponte Vedra Beach, FL (Sports Network) - Matt Kuchar fought off several
competitors on Sunday to win The Players Championship by two strokes.
Kuchar closed with a two-under 70 to finish at 13-under-par 275. The win was
his fourth on the PGA Tour, and by far his biggest title.
"It's such an amazing feeling. To play amongst the game's best, to come out on
top, to do it on Mother's Day, to do it staying with mom and dad, having my
wife and two kids here, it really is magical," Kuchar said in a televised
interview. "It's special. This is quite a feeling,"
Martin Laird poured in five birdies in a seven-hole span from the seventh to
grab a share of the lead, but couldn't keep the pressure on down the stretch.
He closed with a bogey to post a five-under 67.
Laird shared second place at 11-under-par 277 with Zach Johnson (68), Ben
Curtis (68) and last week's winner, Rickie Fowler (70).
Luke Donald needed a solo fourth place finish or better to reclaim the top
spot in the world rankings. He closed with a six-under 66 to end alone in
sixth at minus-nine at the TPC Sawgrass.
Third-round leader Kevin Na stumbled to a four-over 76 to slide into a share
of seventh place at eight-under-par 280.
Na failing to hold the lead continued the streak in which the 54-hole leader
hasn't won the title. The last 54-hole leader to capture this event was
Stephen Ames in 2006.
Tiger Woods recovered from a tough front nine with a solid finish. After
trading a bogey for a birdie from the first, Woods stumbled to a double-bogey
and two bogeys on the front nine to slide to plus-two for the tournament.
Woods, the 2001 champion, clawed back into red figures with three birdies on
the back nine, including consecutive birdies at 16 and 17. He posted a one-
over 73 to end in a share of 40th at minus-one.
"Today, I didn't exactly get off to a good start, you know, 40 on the front
nine. You've got to continue fighting," Woods said in a television interview.
"I got a couple back on the back nine. I've just got to stay committed to what
Phil Mickelson, the 2007 winner, also carded a 73 on Sunday. He got going with
birdies on two and four, but gave those shots back with bogeys on Nos. 7 and
9. Around the turn, he had two more bogeys and a lone birdie on the 16th.
Mickelson tied for 25th at three-under-par 285.
Kuchar stumbled out of the gate with a three-putt bogey from the fringe on the
first, dropping him two behind Na. Kuchar bounced back with a tap-in birdie on
the fourth to get back to minus-11.
Na started to struggle at the fifth. He tripped to four bogeys in a five-hole
span from No. 5 and tumbled to minus-nine, never recovering.
As Kuchar parred four in a row from the fifth, he grabbed a one-stroke lead
thanks to Na's struggles. However, Laird also rallied into the picture.
Laird posted his fourth birdie in six holes at the 12th. After Kuchar
responded with a two-foot birdie putt at No. 9, Laird answered right back with
an eight-footer for birdie on the 13th.
That moved Laird alongside Kuchar at 12-under, but Laird failed to save par
from a bunker on 14 to fall one back.
Kuchar briefly pushed his lead to two with an 11-foot birdie putt on the 12th
while Laird two-putted for birdie from nearly 70 feet on 16 to get back within
Maybe the biggest shot of the week for Kuchar was his second at 14. After
finding a fairway bunker off the tee, he hit a stellar shot onto the green and
two-putted for par from over 40 feet.
Trailing by two, Laird pulled his approach left on the 18th and failed to save
par. He got in first at 11-under.
"I felt really good on the greens all day. It was one of those nice days were
you're over putts expecting to make them instead of wishing they go in," Laird
said in a televised interview. "I have a habit sometimes of trying to find
break in putts when they can be straight and I felt that's what that was (on
18). So I hit it straight and it broke. I'm not going to complain, I played
Kuchar had a little breathing room, and gave himself a little more room with a
15-foot birdie putt on the 16th.
Johnson birdied the 16th, but only managed to par the final two holes to end
Kuchar three-putted from 42 feet for bogey at 17 to cut this lead to two.
Fowler and Curtis were in the penultimate group and tried to get closer.
Fowler birdied 16 and 17 to grab a share of second, while Curtis birdied 16
and 18 to get to minus-11.
Kuchar played the difficult 18th flawlessly. His drive found the right side of
the fairway, then his approach landed on the front portion of the green. After
Na putted out, Kuchar calmly two-putted for the victory.
"I really wish I'd made that one on 17 to make 18 easier to face," Kuchar
joked on TV. "Even with a two-shot lead, I was pretty nervous, but that putt
on 16 was huge."
NOTES: Kuchar earned $1.71 million for the win...He became the eighth player
to win both the U.S. Amateur and Players Championship...Just 16 of the 39 54-
hole leaders at this event have gone on to win...Na has won once in three
tries when owning at least a piece of the 54-hole lead...The tour heads back
to Texas next week as Keegan Bradley defends his title at the Byron Nelson
05/13 20:17:16 ET
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