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Tiger thrills and threatens before faltering late, Simpson takes Players Title

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PONTE VEDRA, FL -- (AP) Starting with the largest Sunday lead ever at The Players Championship was harder than Webb Simpson imagined. Hearing one big roar after another from Tiger Woods playing four groups ahead of him didn't help. Through it all, Simpson managed his game and his nerves.

Only when he had the crystal trophy did he start to crack.

He looked out at his wife, Dowd, a big supporter during the past few years of frustration as Simpson coped with the ban on the anchored putting stroke he used to make two Ryder Cup teams and win the U.S. Open.

Webb Simpson lost his putter, his game ... then found it

Golf changed the rules and took away Webb Simpson's putter. He couldn't make anything. Clearly, with his Players Championship rout, he's rolling again.

Justin Thomas left the Players Championship as golf's No. 1 player in the world. He closed with a 66 to tie for 11th, more than enough to end Dustin Johnson's 15-month reign at the top of the rankings.

And he thought about his mother at home in North Carolina, her first Mother's Day since Simpson's father died in November.

"It's been a tough few months for my mom, my brothers and sisters,'' Simpson said as his voice began to crack. "This is a little beacon of light for my mom, to get this done on Mother's Day.''

There was never any doubt.

Simpson navigated his way through a few mistakes, but not too much stress in his four-shot victory Sunday at the TPC Sawgrass. Staked to a seven-shot lead, no one got closer than four shots, even after Simpson made double-bogey on the 18th hole when his only remaining task was to finish the hole. He closed with a 1-over 73 to end more than four years without winning.

Woods made another big run that revved up the crowd and revived hopes that he was close to winning. So did Jason Dufner, Jimmy Walker and Danny Lee. None could do enough to catch Simpson during a week of low scoring at the final Players Championship in May.


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