As the Players Championship wound down Sunday, there were as many compelling stories on the leader board as there were golf balls in the water surrounding the tournament's signature hole, the par-3 17th.
The players who held at least a share of the final-round lead included Jeff Maggert, a 49-year-old trying to win his fourth PGA Tour event in his 586th start, and David Lingmerth, who had a 74-foot birdie putt to get into his second playoff in 13 tour starts. And there were the headliners and sparring partners, Sergio García and Tiger Woods, who were separated for the fourth round but tied late in the round.
Lonely at the top
By the end of the day, the great stories had fallen away and the greatest active player stood alone. Woods, summoning the kind of steely golf that eluded his closest competitors down the stretch, won for the 78th time in 286 tour starts as a professional. On a warm, breezy day, Woods carded a two-under-par 70 for a 72-hole total of 13-under 275, two strokes better than Maggert (70), Lingmerth (72) and Kevin Streelman (67).
After Woods broke a two-year winless drought in official tour events last March, his cup runneth over. He has won in four of his seven starts in 2013. "Am I surprised?" Woods said. "No. I know a lot of people in this room thought I was done. But I'm not."
"It was fast and difficult," Woods said, referring to Sunday's course conditions, "and I hit it so good today, it was fun. I hit it high, low, left to right, right to left, whatever I wanted, except for that tee shot at 14."
Woods's pop-up hook on No. 14, which resulted in a double bogey, was not pretty. It ended up in the water, and when Woods took his drop, he did so in a shadow cast by a similar incident at the Masters, in his previous start. In the second round in that tournament, Woods took an improper drop, but because the Augusta National rules committee did not ask him about it before he signed his scorecard, he received a reprieve wrapped in a two-stroke penalty.
In this instance, Woods's playing partner, Casey Wittenberg, had what he described as a "perfect" view of the flight of Woods's ball. "I told him exactly where I thought it crossed," he said, "and we all agreed, so he's definitely great on that."
Woods's path to the trophy ceremony was cleared when Lingmerth missed his long birdie attempt at 18 (and then missed the comebacker) and when Maggert and García plunked their tee shots in the water at No. 17. García, who came to the hole tied for the lead with Woods at 13 under, deposited two shots in the water, both landing in the same general spot, and walked off the green with a quadruple-bogey 7. To add insult to indignity, García made a double bogey at the last hole. He posted a 76 to finish in a seven-way tie for eighth at seven under.
The New York Times