Simpson captures 45th Players by four shots

Webb Simpson wasn’t exactly on cruise control, because that doesn’t happen on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, but nobody got closer than four strokes of him in the final round of the 45th Players Championship.

Even though he hit his last full shot of the week into the water on the 18th hole to finish with a double-bogey 6, Simpson closed with a 1-over-par 73 to capture the so-called Fifth Major by four strokes over three players on Mother’s Day.

“You think it would be easy with a seven-stroke lead (to start the final round), but that’s a lot to handle and I to just keep doing what I was doing … and I was able to get it done,” said Simpson, who claimed his fifth PGA Tour victory, but first since the 2013 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. “This means so much to me, I love this tournament, and I was able to get it done. It was difficult, harder than I thought.

“ … It’s hard to put it into words. I wanted to win it for my Mom (Debbie, in part because his father, Sam, died of Parkinson’s Disease and Lewy Body Dementia last November). He got me started in the game. I thought of him all day.”

Simpson, who won the 2012 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, posted a 72-hole score of 18-under 270.

Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State had a tap-in birdie on the final hole to tie for second with Jimmy Walker and Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, the 2011 Masters champion, all of them closing with 67s.

Seventh-ranked Jason Day of Australia of Australia, the 2016 Players champion, and Jason Dufner both shot 68 to finish five shots back in a tie for fifth, while Keegan Bradley, the 2011 PGA champion, shot 66 to wind up another stroke down in a tie for seventh with Harold Varner III and Tommy Fleetwood of England, who both had 68s, and Danny Lee of New Zealand, who came in at 72.

Second-ranked Justin Thomas, who will take over the No. 1 spot this week, totaled 66 and finished in a tie for 11th with Tiger Woods, the 2001 and 2013 Players champion, who made a run before making a bogey at No. 14 and a double bogey at No. 17 in a 69.

Top-ranked Dustin Johnson will lose that spot after tying for 17th with a 72, fifth-ranked Justin Rose of England shot 66 to tie for 23rd, fourth-ranked Jordan Spieth struggled to 74 and tied for 41st with 10th-ranked Patrick Reed, who finished at 72, while third-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain tied for 63rd following a 70.

Defending champion Si Woo Kim of South Korea finished with a 72 to tie for 63rd.

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