x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Clark overcomes Westwood to win Players Championship

For the second time in a month Lee Westwood has lost a big tournament he was leading to a guy shooting 67 on the last day.

For the second time in a month Lee Westwood has lost a big tournament he was leading to a guy shooting 67 on the last day. At the Masters it was world No 2 Phil Mickelson, but at The Players Championship in Florida last night it was little known South African Tim Clark - winless in more than 200 events in America - who snatched golf's richest prize from three behind. And this time Westwood did not even have the consolation of coming second and moving up to third in the world for the first time in his career. Needing a birdie-birdie finish at Sawgrass to force a play-off, Europe's top player hit a wedge into the water on the short 17th, double-bogeyed it and dropped to joint fourth. From hopes of the £1.1million (Dh5.9m) winning cheque he had to settle for £239,960. After a ragged 74 that would have been worse but for two earlier long putts Westwood said: "I'm disappointed, but it's not something I'm going to pull my hair out over. "If you don't play well you don't deserve to win and I just didn't play well over the weekend. "As the course got harder you really needed to be on your game and I wasn't striking the ball solidly enough. "You needed to hit more fairways, have more control of the ball and I just didn't have that. "It all needs fine-tuning. I'll keep working on things, just trying to get a bit better for next time." The shot that disappointed him most was his approach to the long 16th. Two back at the time he came up short in the bunker and when he lipped out for birdie from nine feet he knew the odds were stacked against him. "It was just a rubbish five-iron. I should have been able to hit that," he commented. But while he is still waiting for his first victory in America since April 1998 Clark is celebrating ending a barren spell on the PGA Tour that goes back to his debut the week after Westwood's win in New Orleans. "That's as good as I could have played," said the 2005 Scottish Open champion, whose 66-67 finish from seven behind Westwood at halfway was one outside the tournament record. "I felt like I hit every shot I wanted to." And this on a day when Davis Love was the only other player to break 70. "Obviously I'm over the moon, but no-one is going to talk to me any more - now I'm just another guy with a win! "I'm hoping that this will give me that little extra confidence that I needed. This may just be what gets me started. "I had the last two weeks off and didn't even hit balls I was playing so badly, but I just found something that clicked." Clark had had eight second-place finishes in the States, but you never would have guessed he was striving for his first win when he had five birdies in six holes from the seventh to grab a lead he never relinquished with six closing pars. Australian Robert Allenby was the one who just missed out by one, narrowly missing an eagle attempt on the 16th and then an 11-foot birdie try at the 17th. But, like at Augusta, Westwood ended up as the only European high up the leaderboard. Next best was Italian Francesco Molinari in ninth spot. The next big one for them both is the European Tour's flagship BMW PGA Championship starting at Wentworth on Thursday week. The next major is the United States Open on Pebble Beach on June 17-20. After going third-third-second in the last three Westwood will hope that is the week he finally gets over the line first. * PA