Ponte Vedra Beach, FL – Matt Kuchar fought off several competitors on Sunday to win The Players Championship by two strokes.
Kuchar closed with a two-under 70 to finish at 13-under-par 275. The win was his fourth on the PGA Tour, and by far his biggest title.
"It's such an amazing feeling. To play amongst the game's best, to come out on top, to do it on Mother's Day, to do it staying with mom and dad, having my wife and two kids here, it really is magical," Kuchar said in a televised interview. "It's special. This is quite a feeling,"
Martin Laird poured in five birdies in a seven-hole span from the seventh to grab a share of the lead, but couldn't keep the pressure on down the stretch. He closed with a bogey to post a five-under 67.
Laird shared second place at 11-under-par 277 with Zach Johnson (68), Ben Curtis (68) and last week's winner, Rickie Fowler (70).
Luke Donald needed a solo fourth place finish or better to reclaim the top spot in the world rankings. He closed with a six-under 66 to end alone in sixth at minus-nine at the TPC Sawgrass.
Third-round leader Kevin Na stumbled to a four-over 76 to slide into a share of seventh place at eight-under-par 280.
Na failing to hold the lead continued the streak in which the 54-hole leader hasn't won the title. The last 54-hole leader to capture this event was Stephen Ames in 2006.
Tiger Woods recovered from a tough front nine with a solid finish. After trading a bogey for a birdie from the first, Woods stumbled to a double-bogey and two bogeys on the front nine to slide to plus-two for the tournament.
Woods, the 2001 champion, clawed back into red figures with three birdies on the back nine, including consecutive birdies at 16 and 17. He posted a one- over 73 to end in a share of 40th at minus-one.
"Today, I didn't exactly get off to a good start, you know, 40 on the front nine. You've got to continue fighting," Woods said in a television interview. "I got a couple back on the back nine. I've just got to stay committed to what I'm doing."
Phil Mickelson, the 2007 winner, also carded a 73 on Sunday. He got going with birdies on two and four, but gave those shots back with bogeys on Nos. 7 and 9. Around the turn, he had two more bogeys and a lone birdie on the 16th. Mickelson tied for 25th at three-under-par 285.
Kuchar stumbled out of the gate with a three-putt bogey from the fringe on the first, dropping him two behind Na. Kuchar bounced back with a tap-in birdie on the fourth to get back to minus-11.
Na started to struggle at the fifth. He tripped to four bogeys in a five-hole span from No. 5 and tumbled to minus-nine, never recovering.
As Kuchar parred four in a row from the fifth, he grabbed a one-stroke lead thanks to Na's struggles. However, Laird also rallied into the picture.
Laird posted his fourth birdie in six holes at the 12th. After Kuchar responded with a two-foot birdie putt at No. 9, Laird answered right back with an eight-footer for birdie on the 13th.
That moved Laird alongside Kuchar at 12-under, but Laird failed to save par from a bunker on 14 to fall one back.
Kuchar briefly pushed his lead to two with an 11-foot birdie putt on the 12th while Laird two-putted for birdie from nearly 70 feet on 16 to get back within one.
Maybe the biggest shot of the week for Kuchar was his second at 14. After finding a fairway bunker off the tee, he hit a stellar shot onto the green and two-putted for par from over 40 feet.
Trailing by two, Laird pulled his approach left on the 18th and failed to save par. He got in first at 11-under.
"I felt really good on the greens all day. It was one of those nice days were you're over putts expecting to make them instead of wishing they go in," Laird said in a televised interview. "I have a habit sometimes of trying to find break in putts when they can be straight and I felt that's what that was (on 18). So I hit it straight and it broke. I'm not going to complain, I played great today."
Kuchar had a little breathing room, and gave himself a little more room with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th.
Johnson birdied the 16th, but only managed to par the final two holes to end alongside Laird.
Kuchar three-putted from 42 feet for bogey at 17 to cut this lead to two.
Fowler and Curtis were in the penultimate group and tried to get closer. Fowler birdied 16 and 17 to grab a share of second, while Curtis birdied 16 and 18 to get to minus-11.
Kuchar played the difficult 18th flawlessly. His drive found the right side of the fairway, then his approach landed on the front portion of the green. After Na putted out, Kuchar calmly two-putted for the victory.
"I really wish I'd made that one on 17 to make 18 easier to face," Kuchar joked on TV. "Even with a two-shot lead, I was pretty nervous, but that putt on 16 was huge."
NOTES: Kuchar earned $1.71 million for the win...He became the eighth player to win both the U.S. Amateur and Players Championship...Just 16 of the 39 54- hole leaders at this event have gone on to win...Na has won once in three tries when owning at least a piece of the 54-hole lead...The tour heads back to Texas next week as Keegan Bradley defends his title at the Byron Nelson Championship.