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PGA Tour
Clark wins Players, finally has first PGA title

Ponte Vedra Beach, FL (Sports Network) - Tim Clark caught fire around the turn, scratched out a gutsy finish and finally captured his first PGA Tour win Sunday at The Players Championship.

The breakthrough victory came in Clark's 206th start on tour, a stretch that began when he played the 1998 Masters as an amateur.

"I'm over the moon," said Clark, who fired a five-under 67 to beat Robert Allenby by a stroke.

Clark was one of only two players to break 70 during a difficult final round at the TPC Sawgrass. He made just one bogey on the weekend to overcome a seven-shot deficit after 36 holes -- the largest comeback in tournament history over the final two rounds.

The 34-year-old South African posted a 16-under 272.

Allenby, who was chasing his first PGA Tour win in nine years, shot a 70 and finished alone in second place at 15-under 273.

Allenby's 11-foot birdie putt at the 17th hole turned away at the last moment and he couldn't birdie the 18th to tie Clark. The 38-year-old Australian has now gone 223 starts since winning his fourth PGA Tour title in 2001.

Reigning U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover (70) had five birdies over his last eight holes and finished third at 14-under 274.

Lee Westwood, who held the 36-and 54-hole leads, was also looking to end a winless streak, but he closed with a 74 to join four other players at 12-under 276. The 37-year-old Englishman hasn't won on the PGA Tour since 1998.

Tiger Woods withdrew from the tournament Sunday because of a neck injury he said has been bothering him since before the Masters.

Sitting 12 shots off the lead and with no chance of contending, Woods walked off the course after hitting two shots on No. 7, saying that he couldn't play through the pain any longer. He said he was experiencing a tingling sensation down the fingers on his right hand.

"They want me to go get [an MRI] on it next week," Woods said. "I might have a bulging disk. I've been playing through it. I can't play through it anymore."

By pulling out, Woods left an opening for Phil Mickelson to assume the No. 1 world ranking with a victory. But Mickelson was never really in it after making three bogeys on his first six holes. He shot 74 and finished nine back.

"The course conditions were very difficult. It was exactly what I needed to be able to try to make a run at the leaders," said Mickelson. "Unfortunately I didn't take advantage of it."

You wouldn't have known by Clark's scorecard that anyone was having trouble on the Stadium Course's slick greens. He made his first birdie at No. 7, then four in a row from No. 9 to surge past Westwood and Allenby and take the lead.

Among Clark's birdies were an 18-foot putt at the ninth and a soft approach shot to six feet at the 10th. He drained a five-foot birdie putt at the 11th and rolled in a 17-footer at the 12th to take a one-shot lead over Westwood.

With so many players sniffing around for a streak-busting win, Clark carefully scratched out six consecutive pars to get it done.

He drained a knee-knocker from four feet at the 15th hole, and he landed safely on the island green at No. 17 to make a par there. Nothing was more testing than the seven-footer he faced at the 18th, however, but Clark holed that putt as well to take a two-shot lead into the clubhouse.

When Allenby and Westwood finished their round about 45 minutes later, Clark finally had his first win.

He entered the week with more than $14.7 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour -- tops among players without a victory. He had eight career runner-up finishes, including one at the 2006 Masters when Mickelson claimed his second green jacket.

"I just hoped it would happen one day and I came out today and showed what I can do on the golf course," said Clark, who collected $1.71 million.

"Now I'm just another guy with a win," he said.

Allenby holed a 90-foot chip shot from the rough at No. 2 for an eagle that tied him with Westwood for the early-round lead. But Clark eventually became the real target, with Allenby chasing him all the way to the end.

Allenby rolled in a 27-foot putt at the 14th, the second time in a five-hole stretch that he followed a bogey with a birdie. He made his last birdie at the par-five 16th, two-putting from 16 feet.

"I really tried to just give myself as many opportunities as possible on that back nine," said Allenby. "It wasn't from the lack of trying. There was plenty of effort in there, that's for sure."

Westwood was hurt by a bad tee shot and a bogey at the 14th, which knocked him two strokes behind Clark. He dumped a ball in the water at the 17th and made a double-bogey there.

It was a disappointing end to the weekend for the Masters runner-up, especially after holding the lead for two straight rounds.

"As the course toughened up, you needed to hit more fairways and I didn't do that," Westwood said.

NOTES: Clark won twice on both the Nationwide and Canadian Tours, and has also captured three wins on the European Tour...Davis Love III was the only player besides Clark to break 70 on Sunday, shooting a four-under 68 to share fourth place with Westwood, Heath Slocum, Bo Van Pelt and Ben Crane...It marked the first time since the 2006 Nissan Open that Woods withdrew from a tournament...Woods has held the No. 1 ranking every week since June 12, 2005 when he snatched it back from Vijay Singh...Mickelson has never been No. 1.

05/09 20:49:15 ET

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