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Love Finishes With 64 and Wins

March 31, 2003|From Associated Press

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The guys playing alongside and behind him called it one of the greatest rounds they had seen. This time, they weren't talking about Tiger Woods.

Davis Love III hit all the shots and made all the crucial putts Sunday in the Players Championship, closing with an eight-under-par 64 in cold, blustery conditions for a victory he ranks among his best.

"An incredible round of golf," Love said after winning by six shots in a tournament regarded as golf's fifth major.

Two strokes behind to start the final round, Love blitzed the field with five consecutive birdies.

From the pine straw on the par-five 16th, he wrapped a six-iron around the pines and over the lake to 10 feet for eagle, just as Woods had done before him.

When it was over, Love matched the best closing round in the 30-year history of the Players Championship and won the richest prize on the PGA Tour.

Jay Haas, a co-leader to start the final round, was two under for the day and was pressing simply to keep up. "We just got run over by Davis," he said.

Love provided the charge everyone expected from Woods and delivered a performance every bit as dominant.

He finished at 17-under 271. Six strokes behind were Haas and Padraig Harrington.

Love's second victory this season was a huge boost to his confidence with the Masters two weeks away.

"I wasn't picked as a guy to win Augusta the last couple of years," Love said. "It's nice to be back in that position."

Haas, 49, trying to become the oldest winner of the Players Championship, settled for a consolation prize. He closed with an even-par 72, and his tie for second earned him enough money to move into the top 10 on the money list and qualify for the Masters.

Harrington made consecutive bogeys early in his round and was never a factor. He also shot 72.

Strong, cold winds left the TPC at Sawgrass as difficult as it had been all week, but Love made it look like he was on a pitch-and-putt.

Even into the crosswinds, the most challenging in golf, Love blasted his drives down the middle of the fairway and stuck his approach shots close to the hole.

Love, who earned $1.17 million, joined Couples, Jack Nicklaus and Hal Sutton as the only multiple winners of the Players Championship.

Woods started the final round five strokes behind and was poised to make a charge when he rolled in a 20-footer for eagle on the second hole.

The rest of his round was hardly characteristic of someone who had won three of his first four tournaments.

Despite two eagles, Woods hit three balls into the water and wound up with a 72 and a tie for 11th, the first time since the British Open that he failed to finish in the top 10.

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