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Justin Thomas Takes PLAYERS Championship

Coming off two missed cuts in four starts since his world felt like it was crashing in around him, Justin Thomas was outside the cut line with nine holes to play on Friday when he made four birdies. From there, he matched the lowest final 36-hole score (64-68) at the treacherous TPC Sawgrass for a one-shot victory over Lee Westwood.


The ball striking was so sublime that Thomas, who rallied from three shots behind with a 4-under 68, was on the verge of becoming the first winner to hit every green in the final round. He hit the fringe on the final hole.


He won for the seventh straight year, his 14th career title, and became only the fourth player to win a major, The Players Championship, the FedEx Cup and a World Golf Championship.


Thomas was four shots behind when he walked off the green on the par-3 eighth with a three-putt bogey. Four holes later, he walked off the 12th green with a two-shot lead.


He hit a 5-iron to 20 feet to set up a two-putt birdie on the par-5 ninth. He took on a tough pin at No. 10 for a 6-foot birdie. He drilled a 4-iron to 20 feet for an eagle at No. 11 for his first lead of the week, and he capped off the run with a nifty pitch from behind the green on the reachable par-4 12th for birdie.


Westwood was a hard-luck runner-up for the second straight week — to Bryson DeChambeau at Bay Hill, to Thomas at The Players, two major champions who were born in 1993, the year the 47-year-old Westwood turned pro.


He was tied for the lead until he couldn’t match Thomas, playing in the group ahead, on the par-5 16th.


Thomas teed it low and slung a hard, low draw that ran out some 40 yards and set up a 5-wood into 50 feet, which he lagged down for a two-putt birdie. Westwood’s 3-iron clipped a tree and dropped into the sand, and that quirky 65-yard shot went into another bunker and forced him to scramble for par.


He made birdie on the 18th to finish alone in second. DeChambeau (71) and Brian Harman (69) were another shot behind.


Thomas finished at 14-under 274. He was outside the cut line after nine holes Friday, made it with two shots to spare and then tied The Players Championship record with a 12-under 132 weekend.


Westwood hit his tee shot into the water on the fourth hole and had to make an 8-footer to save bogey. He hit his approach out of the pine straw that clipped two branches and found water on the par-5 second hole to make bogey. But he was never far away from the lead, and Westwood regained a share of the lead with an 8-foot birdie putt on the 14th.


His hopes ended with a three-putt bogey on the par-3 17th.


Thomas won $2.7 million from the $15 million purse, and he found some peace between the ears that required talking to plenty of people and pouring out some of his emotions. He said he was in a good place when he teed off, and he felt even better when he was posing with the trophy.

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