By Andrew Both
PONTE VEDRA, Fla. (Reuters) – Webb Simpson heard the roars echoing across TPC Sawgrass as Tiger Woods made a charge but in the end he had a large enough cushion to clinch a comfortable four-stroke victory at the Players Championship on Sunday.
The 2012 U.S. Open champion was never seriously challenged after starting the day with a seven-shot lead, though Woods briefly got within four strokes after making six birdies in the first 12 holes.
“There’s so much noise in front of us with Tiger,” said Simpson. “His roars are definitely a different sound than everybody else’s but I knew he started 10 or 11 shots back, so he would have to do something really special.”
Woods would stall later in the round, dropping three shots.
Simpson did not hit the high notes of his previous three rounds, but he was able to enjoy his victory march down the 18th fairway and even a double-bogey took nothing away from the quality of his performance.
He carded a 73 to finish at 18-under 270 for his fifth victory on the PGA Tour and first since late 2013.
South African Charl Schwartzel (67) and Americans Xander Schauffele (67) and Jimmy Walker (67) tied for second on 14-under.
Woods shot 69 after a double-bogey at the island-green 17th and ended equal 11th on 11-under.
Simpson was not expected to blow a lead bigger than anyone had ever blown in the final round of a PGA Tour event but he said it was not as easy as it looked.
“Over four years without a win, I never doubted myself but at the same time that’s a long time,” he said.
“(Today) was harder than I thought. You don’t feel relaxed until that ball finds land on 17. So once that happened, internally I was celebrating.”
Simpson dedicated the victory to his parents — his late father Sam who died last November, and his mother Debbie back home in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“My dad got me started in the game,” Simpson said.
“He kept me in other sports but he could tell that I was better in golf.
“I also felt unconditional love from my mum no matter how I played.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Ian Ransom/Peter Rutherford)