Webb Simpson (and 17) spoil potential Tiger Woods comeback party

For a moment Sunday, The Players Championship appeared up for grabs, with Tiger Woods stunningly one of those in contention. But only for a moment, as Webb Simpson slammed the door on all hopes on the back nine, winning going away by four strokes – his first victory since 2013.

Wait, Tiger Woods was in contention?

Yep, after making the cut on the number Friday, Tiger backed up his Saturday 65 with another birdie-full round on Sunday. He started the day 11 shots back of Simpson. But at one point early on the back nine, Woods had gotten it to 14-under, in a tie for second. But a bogey on 14 followed by a double at the island green 17th ended his fabulous weekend run.

A 6-under round turned into a 3-under 69, putting him in a tie for 11th.

Was Webb Simpson really in trouble?

With Woods, Jason Dufner and Jimmy Walker making runs, plus with 17 looming, sure. There was a moment Sunday when Simpson bogeyed and Woods was staring down a makeable birdie putt. Had Tiger sunk it, he’d have been within three. But he didn’t, and Simpson regrouped with a birdie on 11 and a bunch of pars down the stretch.

What’s this win mean for Simpson?

It’s huge. Since winning the 2012 U.S. Open, Simpson has just one victory and hasn’t finished inside the top 10 in a major. The Players is regarded as the “fifth major,” so a win here is absolutely massive. Plus, he pockets $1.98 million.

What does this mean for Tiger?

Confidence-wise, it shows he can hang with the best players in the game. The Players is unarguably the toughest field in golf — 49 of the top 50 ranked players in the world were in the field this week. Still, it’s just a tease. Almost contending isn’t in the same galaxy as Tiger’s expectations. It was a nice weekend for the gallery, cheering him on like it was 2008 and not 2018. But even at 42, with a bad back and years of inactivity barely out of his rearview mirror, Tiger is on the course for trophies, not consolation prizes.

That said, this result will raise expectations for next month’s U.S. Open, where he will undoubtedly be among the betting favorites.

“I played so well this weekend, unfortunately i just didn’t cash it in,” he said.

Oh, and there’s a new No. 1 in the world

Justin Thomas is now the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world, taking the reigns from Dustin Johnson. Johnson became the No. 1 ranked players in world back in February of 2017. He held it for 64 weeks, the fifth-longest stretch since the rankings began in 1986. But with Johnson fading Sunday, coupled with Thomas finishing T-11, the 25-year-old Louisville native moved to the top spot.

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