Stenson wins as rivals falter

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Henrik Stenson took the biggest win of his career with a sublime final round at TPC Sawgrass to claim The Players Championship.

Henrik Stenson landed the biggest victory of his career with a commanding final round at TPC Sawgrass to take The Players Championship.
The Swede was one of six men, also including world number one Tiger Woods and England’s Ian Poulter, to start the day in a tie for second place at six under par, with overnight leader Alex Cejka of Germany five shots in front of them at 11 under.
Yet as Cejka imploded and Woods faltered in the final group of the day, Stenson played brilliant golf to shoot a six-under round of 66 and become only the third European in the tournament’s 36-year history, following Sandy Lyle in 1987 and Sergio Garcia 12 months ago.
Poulter finished second after a final-round 70 which took him to eight under, his second top-five finish in a row but still short of his first PGA Tour victory, with Americans John Mallinger and Kevin Na third at seven under.
England’s Brian Davis gave the European contingent more cheer as he took a share of fifth place on six under with Americans Jim Furyk and Ben Crane with Woods alone in eighth at five under following a 73, his first top-10 finish in the event since he won it in 2001.
Aaron Baddeley of Australia completed an amazing turnaround following a 76 on Saturday which left him in last place, a final-round 66 giving him a tie for ninth place with Vijay Singh, another former straggler who turned in a 67 and Cejka, who closed with a 79.
Once again temperatures soared to 90 degrees Fahrenheit as the leaders began their rounds, which in the third round had helped the greens quicken considerably, and the leaders were bracing for another testing day in the PGA Tour’s flagship event.
Cejka, wearing all black in the Florida heat, made a bad start from which he could not recover, although the Czech-born German was not the only contender experiencing jitters in golf’s so-called “fifth major”.
Woods hit a bad tee shot at the par-five second hole and found water with his second shot, while up ahead Retief Goosen dropped to five under when he missed a par putt from inside seven feet.
Then Poulter undid his good start with a bogey at the par-four fourth to return to five under and Woods bogeyed the second.
Cejka imploded with a run of double-bogey, bogey, bogey to fall to six under while Woods was also in reverse at four under after eight having bogeyed the fourth, birdied the sixth and bogeyed the seventh.
Goosen strung together back to back birdies only to double bogey the par-four eighth to leave Stenson in the lead at eight under after nine holes after the Swede birdied the seventh and ninth.
Stenson was the only player left in the field still bogey-free in the final round and he stretched his lead to three strokes with birdies at the 11th and 13th to move to 10 under, three shots clear.
Davis had also birdied the 11th to move up to joint second with Poulter and Crane at seven under, while American John Mallinger joined them with a birdie at the 14th.
Goosen joined the party with birdies at the 11th and 12th but Crane dropped a shot at the 13th.
Furyk entered the mix at six under with a birdie at the 16th, his third on the back nine on the way to a final-round 69, while Cejka finally got into a groove with his first birdie of the day at the par-four 10th, where Woods bogeyed to slip to three under, only for the German to bogey the 12th and return to five under.
Both Poulter and Mallinger narrowed the gap on Stenson to two strokes, the Englishman by sinking a birdie putt at the par-four 15th, while the American birdied the 16th.
Mallinger’s playing partner Kevin Na also enjoyed the par-five 16th, which he eagled courtesy of a 51-foot putt.
Mallinger finished with a 70 to close at seven under, as did Na but Stenson was getting better and better.
On Saturday he reached nine under before losing three strokes over the last four holes but on his final trip round the Swede was inspired.
At the 15th he blasted his three wood 302 yards and sent his approach shot to within three feet to hole out for a birdie which took him to 11 under.
Another birdie at the 16th gave Stenson a four-shot cushion and when his tee shot on 17 found dry land, the Swede could finally look forward to the biggest victory of his career with Woods and a forlorn Cejka bringing up the rear as mere footnotes.
All the final round scores & totals in the USPGA Tour THE PLAYERS Championship, The TPC at Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Ponte Vedra, Florida, United States of America.
(USA unless stated, par 72):

276 Henrik Stenson (Swe) 68 69 73 66
280 Ian Poulter (Eng) 67 68 75 70
281 Kevin Na 71 66 74 70, John Mallinger 66 71 74 70
282 Brian Davis (Eng) 71 69 71 71, Ben Crane 65 73 72 72, Jim Furyk 68 74 71 69
283 Tiger Woods 71 69 70 73
284 Aaron Baddeley (Aus) 71 71 76 66, Vijay Singh (Fij) 71 72 74 67, David Toms 67 70 77 70, Tim Clark (Rsa) 72 69 74 69, Alex Cejka (Ger) 66 67 72 79
285 Jeff Klauk 71 72 71 71, Paul Casey (Eng) 70 69 76 70, Daniel Chopra (Swe) 75 65 72 73, Robert Allenby (Aus) 73 66 75 71, Mike Weir (Can) 72 72 73 68, Camilo Villegas (Col) 67 72 75 71, Angel Cabrera (Arg) 72 65 77 71, Matt Kuchar 72 72 73 68
286 Steve Stricker 71 71 71 73, Retief Goosen (Rsa) 67 72 71 76, Sergio Garcia (Spa) 71 73 73 69, Woody Austin 72 72 68 74, Ben Curtis 71 72 69 74, Geoff Ogilvy (Aus) 70 72 73 71, Scott Piercy 71 72 74 69, Tommy Armour III 74 70 70 72, Kenny Perry 73 71 68 74, Justin Rose (Eng) 70 71 72 73
287 Justin Leonard 70 69 75 73, Zach Johnson 72 71 70 74, Jason Dufner 67 70 77 73, Billy Mayfair 70 74 69 74, Kevin Sutherland 73 67 72 75
288 John Rollins 68 76 70 74, Charley Hoffman 70 69 76 73, Jeff Overton 71 67 75 75, John Senden (Aus) 72 69 72 75, Tim Petrovic 68 70 75 75, Bubba Watson 67 75 72 74, Luke Donald (Eng) 74 70 71 73, Jonathan Byrd 67 72 71 78
289 Michael Letzig 71 68 74 76, Richard S Johnson (Swe) 66 72 74 77, Ernie Els (Rsa) 73 69 73 74, Ryuji Imada (Jpn) 72 70 75 72
290 Fredrik Jacobson (Swe) 70 73 72 75, Scott Verplank 67 74 73 76, Nick O’Hern (Aus) 68 73 75 74, Stephen Ames (Can) 70 71 75 74, Jason Bohn 72 71 74 73, Padraig Harrington (Irl) 72 72 74 72
291 Phil Mickelson 73 71 71 76, Brad Adamonis 67 76 74 74, Martin Kaymer (Ger) 71 73 69 78, Heath Slocum 75 69 71 76, Mark Wilson 69 72 75 75
292 Johnson Wagner 69 73 72 78, Rocco Mediate 73 71 74 74, Chez Reavie 70 72 75 75
293 Michael Allen 71 70 74 78
294 Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind) 68 74 76 76, Steve Flesch 75 69 74 76
295 John Merrick 70 72 74 79, Cameron Beckman 72 72 73 78
296 Pat Perez 72 72 74 78, Jeff Quinney 73 70 75 78
298 Ryan Moore 71 68 75 84
WD: Weekley Boo 73 67 73

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