Justin Thomas celebrates with the trophy after winning The Players Championship. Picture: Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters
Justin Thomas celebrates with the trophy after winning The Players Championship. Picture: Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

New Players Champion Justin Thomas ’was in the zone’

By Reuters Time of article published Mar 15, 2021

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MIAMI - Justin Thomas used a mid-round charge to push into the lead Sunday and earn a one-shot victory in The Players Championship at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Thomas’ first victory of the season and 14th in his career on the PGA Tour came after he delivered a 4-under-par 68 in the final round at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course. He finished at 14-under 274 for the tournament following his 3-foot par putt at the final hole.

Third-round leader Lee Westwood of England shot 72 and finished alone in second place at 13-under, while Brian Harman (69 on Sunday) and Bryson DeChambeau (71) tied for third place at 12-under.

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Talor Gooch (67) and England's Paul Casey (70) finished tied for fifth place at 11 under, while Canada's Corey Conners was alone in seventh place at 10 under.

Thomas was three shots off Westwood's lead at the start of play Sunday and was plodding along at 1-over par through eight holes following a three-putt bogey at the par-3 eighth. It managed to light a fire, though, with Thomas playing the next four holes at 5 under, including an eagle 3 at No. 11.

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The 19-foot putt for eagle gave him the lead at 13 under, which he pushed to a two-shot advantage at 14 under when he recorded a birdie at No 12.

Asked if he was certain a victory was ahead, Thomas said his mindset was far from a trophy presentation.

"(There is) a lot of unknown ... a lot of stuff that can happen," Thomas said. "You can hit a lot of great shots on 13 through 18 and not make one birdie or even play them over par. No 17 is such a crapshoot this week with how firm that green was, and then you have adrenaline going. And 18 is 18, so there's a lot going on."

Thomas' bogey at No 14 helped Westwood pull even briefly but his birdie at the par-5 16th hole gave him sole possession of the lead again. He had a par at the famed island green on No 17 before flirting with disaster at 18.

Thomas's tee shot on the 72nd hole hugged the water on the left side of the fairway but stayed dry. He put his approach shot on the fringe and used two putts from there to close out the victory.

"I was in such a great frame of mind and focused all day," Thomas said.

"I really felt like as soon as I started on the first tee, I just was in a zone and in a focus that I felt like I could make the ball do what I wanted with it, and it felt like I could hit the putts exactly how I wanted. Yeah, it was nice to get in that little head space."

DeChambeau was unable to turn a final-round pairing with Westwood into a victory like he did last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He was at 1-over par for the day when he eagled the 16th hole, putting him two shots off the lead. He had a par on each of the last two holes, just missing a birdie putt at 18.

"It's just a little bit of a learning block, and I'm going to go back and work really hard on my golf swing and figure out how to be less sensitive," DeChambeau said.

"I was more sensitive last week and pulled out the victory. I got a little lucky. Just putts didn't fall today. I hit a lot of great putts that didn't go in. That's the unfortunate part about golf sometimes."

Westwood entered the final round with a two-shot lead and stayed in contention throughout the final round despite playing the front nine in 1-over par after three bogeys. He had a birdie at 14, but was unable to make up any ground on 16 as DeChambeau was recording his eagle.

A long birdie putt to tie for the lead at 17 was well left and he missed his 9-foot par putt to all but seal his fate. His birdie at 18 gave him sole possession of second place.

"I didn't quite have my game today; I don't know what it was," the 47-year-old Westwood said.

"Maybe I just haven't played a lot of golf. I hate to say it, age is catching up with me. (Saturday) I felt like my legs were just starting to get a bit tired and weak, and today I just didn't feel like I had my legs under me. I was hitting shots I don't normally hit."

Field Level Media via Reuters

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