Simpson ends 4-year title drought with Players triumph

Tiger Woods hits a shot from the 11th tee during the third round of The Players Championship on Saturday in Ponte Vedra Beach Fla. | John Raoux  AP

Tiger Woods hits a shot from the 11th tee during the third round of The Players Championship on Saturday in Ponte Vedra Beach Fla. | John Raoux AP

Will Tiger Woods win a tournament before the end of the year? These past 4 1⁄2 years had been a hard grind. Woods has won five times but hasn't played since 2015.

Woods shot a 3-under 69 in the final round and tied for 11th at 11-under 277. The point is, he did not break.

Woods had produced his best ever round at TPC Sawgrass with a 65 on Saturday, and was 14-under through 12 and sharing second place thanks to six birdies.

Simpson suffered the jitters in Florida, but was able to seal his first victory for five years by a four-stroke margin following a one-over closing 73 to finish 18 under.

"Eventually I was going to put all the pieces together and today, for the most part, I did that", Woods said. "And he's making everything [on the greens]".

He recalls the moment in the vehicle park at the Northern Trust Open two years ago when after missing another cut, an honest debrief with caddie Paul Tesori led to his putting epiphany. This marked an emotional scene for Simpson, whose father died at the end of past year. After almost acing the par-3 17th, he made a quadruple-bogey on the par-4 18th that included a three-putt from five feet for a 2-over 74. His charge was halted after a double bogey at the island-green 17th. Perhaps he would even attack Greg Norman's tournament record of 24-under-par. He spoke of his father, Sam, who died last fall.

Simpson produced his shot of the day at the par-five 11th, where he sent his second shot some 33 yards past the hole and into a rear greenside bunker. "We miss him like insane".

"It was just a matter of time", Woods said about finding his game, "and this weekend was it".

The winner's wife, Dowd, had been home in North Carolina, taking care of the couple's four children, but she flew in for the final round.

Simpson is the ninth player to win both a U.S. Open and a Players title, joining Tiger Woods, Germany's Martin Kaymer, Lee Janzen, Tom Kite, Raymond Floyd, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Jerry Pate. Tesori, who has lived all his life near this course, was in tears at the trophy ceremony. He was in range of the course record that eluded Simpson last Saturday.

Although Simpson and others were given more than two years to get used to the change before it was written into law on January 1, 2016, the adjustment proved hard. Simpson admitted "celebrating internally" when his tee shot on 17 found dry land.

"It means everything to me".

While Woods didn't really get close enough to have an intimidatory effect on this occasion, fair play to Simpson, a former US Open victor, for landing his first victory since 2013 in real style.

"But to be honest with you guys, I've never putted this well in my life, and I think if I had stayed with the belly putter, I think I maybe averaged 35th to 60th every year in putting, so very average". Yet that didn't stop him from signing autographs for a big group of kids afterwards and, along with many others at the moment, including a Woods who actually looks as though he's enjoying himself, golf really can be thankful to have such a terrific ambassador as the young Texan.

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