PONTE VEDRA BEACH - Amidst a Florida weekend of just about everything but a snowstorm, the 40th annual Players Championship golf tournament became a competition of attrition and focus with Australian …
PONTE VEDRA BEACH - Amidst a Florida weekend of just about everything but a snowstorm, the 40th annual Players Championship golf tournament became a competition of attrition and focus with Australian Cameron Smith emerging at the top with a one stroke win over a nearly-miraculous finish from a golfer with absolutely no PGA Tour wins.
Smith, 28, who is now ranked No. 2 on the FedEXCup ranks, came to the blustery weekend of Ponte Vedra Beach with fives wins in 160 PGA Tour starts with 30 top 10 finishes. Smith held off a late charge by a handful of players to finish at 13-under par to take the top prize on the $20 million purse.
At the other end of the spectrum, Players’ runnerup Anirban Lahiri, 34, from Pune-India, who was just one stroke out (12-Under) of winning the $3.6 million first place check, seemed unfazed by the horrendous wind, rain and delays and stayed near the top five for most of the treacherous first three days while the past champions and multiple Tour champions; Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka, Lee Westwood, all did not make first, second and third, plus the final cuts with scores not better than two over par and three over par. Lahiri, who went home with $2.18 million, came to Sawgrass with just one previous runnerup PGA Tour finish in 2017.
Bubba Watson and Lee Hodges were the final two players before the cut with scores of seven over par and nine over par, respectively.
Smith, who finished at 13 under par, scored a 66 of par 72 on the final round with four birdies from the 10th through the 13th hole, plus one more on the famous 17th hole to hold off a hard-charging Lahiri at the end, who fell back to as far as ninth place with a par first nine holes on the final round before hitting an Eagle (2-under par) with a string of pars and a birdie also on 17 to close the gap and pass a handful of other chasers of Smith.
In the final five holes, the lead changed four times between Smith, Kevin Kisner, Paul Casey and Keegan Bradley as each negotiated the near pristine conditions left from a day of brisk sunshine to ready for their final shot at the 17th hole to establish a final surge.
Casey, 44, from England, hit all pars from 13 through 18, but as fans awaited a surge. Casey at 11-under for third and a $1.38 million check.
Keegan Bradley, 35, of Vermont, had the best final nine run with four birdies from 9-12, but hit a bogie on 17 and a double bogie on a disastrous 18th hole to fall to fifth at nine under.
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