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Kuchar clinches biggest victory at Sawgrass

ESPN staff
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Matt Kuchar hoists the trophy © Getty Images
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Matt Kuchar held his nerve to win The Players Championship after a solid closing round on Sunday.

The American, one shot behind Kevin Na going into the final round, inherited the lead after his playing partner succumbed to the pressure of the occasion early on - although he had to deal with strong challenges from both Martin Laird and Rickie Fowler before eventually clinching a two-shot victory.

After reaching two-under for his round and 13-under for the tournament by the 12th, Kuchar looked to be on course for a comfortable victory when he rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt at the par-five 16th. However, it looked like the whole course of the tournament was set to change on the 17th, as Kuchar faced a tricky four-footer for bogey as Fowler, then 11-under, had a makeable ten-footer for birdie at the last.

However, Kuchar would make as Fowler would miss - maintaining a two-shot advantage for the American as he successfully negotiated the treacherous final hole to sign for a round of 70 and claim a deserved victory at 13-under.

In the process, he became only the eighth former US Amateur champion to go ahead and win the flagship PGA Tour tournament.

"That was such an amazing feeling," Kuchar said afterwards. "To play against the world's best and come out on top... it really is magical.

"I really wish I'd made that one on 17 to make 18 a little easier, but that one on 16 really was important!"

Fowler and Laird shared second at 11-under, alongside Zach Johnson and Ben Curtis - who finished with two birdies in his final three holes. Laird in particular had reason to be frustrated; the Scot shot 67 on the day but dropped a shot at the last after getting a bit tight on his approach that would otherwise have seen him apply real pressure to the later finishers.

Na, never in contention after a horror start, eventually finished eight-under after a round of 76 - alongside Bo Van Pelt and Jhonattan Vegas. All three finished a shot behind Luke Donald, who moved to nine-under after a round of 66 but nevertheless narrowly missed out on his goal of finishing inside the top four to reclaim the world No. 1 spot.

Elsewhere, Ian Poulter, among the leaders after the opening day, ended a disappointing final three days with a round of 73 - with a trip to the water on the 17th ultimately preventing him from finishing any better than three-under, alongside Brian Davis.

Earlier in the day, Tiger Woods scratched his way to a closing round of 73, as he finished narrowly inside the top 40 at one-under. The 14-time major champion struggled on the front nine- going out in 40 after a double-bogey at the fourth - but made three birdies and six pars on the inward nine to at least salvage something from his day.

Behind Woods, Justin Rose finished two-over for the tournament - with compatriot Lee Westwood four-over and Sergio Garcia sandwiched between the pair at three-over.

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