McDowell's collapse opens door
The flat feeling that overwhelmed Graeme McDowell following an unlucky roll on No. 18 in the rain-delayed third round Sunday morning carried over to the final round of The Players Championship.
And the Northern Irishman never recovered.
McDowell shot a 7-over 79 in the final round of The Players Championship, a stunning collapse that left the U.S. Open champion simply trying to stay out of the way of playing partners K.J. Choi and David Toms. Choi ended up beating Toms on the first playoff hole.
''It was disappointing out there today,'' said McDowell, who tied for 33rd at 5-under 283. ''Probably my first time under the gun in a little while. So first time we played in front of a crowd that big in a little while, you know. So it's kind of getting back into the old vibes again.
''Didn't quite have it out there. I was a little flat today. Energy levels weren't where I need them to be. But we live and we learn and we'll be back.''
McDowell's struggles started with a bad break on TPC Sawgrass.
He built a three-shot lead in the third round with a tap-in birdie on No. 17, the famed island green. But he was shocked to see his approach on the 18th bounce onto the green, take a hard turn left and roll all the way into the water. He wound up with a double bogey for a 68.
Even so, that gave him a one-shot lead over Choi and Toms going into the final round.
It didn't last.
He birdied No. 5 thanks to a massive drive, getting him to 13 under, but then his game unraveled. His tee shot at No. 6 went way right into the trees and led to a bogey. He overcompensated on his next drive and hooked it into the water left, leading to another bogey.
He started chasing shots from there, most noticeably when he tried to hit from behind a bush on No. 9. He barely moved the ball and ended up with another bogey. It was downhill from there, with more inconsistency off the tee and more errant approach shots at every turn.
''I said I was going to take the positives away whatever happened this weekend,'' McDowell said. ''I said I was going to stick to my guns. It's going to hurt for a few hours, but it was a tough task today. The golf course and the wind got up. It was tricky, and I just didn't have it.''
He was 8 over in the final 13 holes.
''I think it was physical fatigue brought on by a few bogeys at the wrong time,'' he said. ''Long day out there. I just couldn't seem to get any momentum. You need a little momentum out there, and I couldn't seem to read the grain. I wasn't reading the greens the way I've been reading them. Couldn't hole anything. It was just a bad day at the office.''
GLOVER'S GAFFES: Lucas Glover lost 11 strokes in four holes Sunday, a free fall from the leaderboard that cost him a chance at winning The Players.
Glover double-bogeyed No. 16 and tripled No. 18 in a 74 in the rain-delayed third round Sunday morning, then carded a quadruple bogey at No. 4 and a double at 18 in a final-round 77.
''I'm not going to put much stock into today, believe me,'' said Glover, who was 5 over in the final round and finished at 1 under for the tournament.
Glover, who won last week at Quail Hollow, was 11 under and right in the mix when he stepped to the tee box at No. 16 in the third round.
He pushed his second shot right and into the water at the par-5 hole, then knocked the next over the green. He chipped on and two-putted for a 7. His tee shot at the par-4 18th was equally poor. He yanked it left into the water, then hit his next shot into the right rough. He had to lay up from there and finished with another double.
Things got worse after the final round began. Glover hit two balls into the water at the par-4 fourth and ended up carding a snowman 8. He yanked another tee shot left at 18 and doubled the closing hole.
''I hit three bad shots and it cost me nine (strokes), and I made a bad decision on 18 and it cost me two,'' Glover said. ''Other than that, it wasn't all that bad. I think it was a combination of hitting the wrong shots on the wrong holes. Just didn't execute this morning and didn't have it this afternoon. No big deal.''
TIGER TALK: PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem insisted Sunday that he never pressured Tiger Woods to compete in The Players Championship.
Finchem spoke with reporters before the final round of the tour's signature event and made it clear he never asked Woods to play through his injuries.
''I don't twist players' arms, and as far as Tiger being hurt, guys, that's a decision he has to make, and I had no information that he wasn't ready to play golf,'' Finchem said. ''I don't think anybody did. I don't think he did.
''I was on the range with him for a half an hour Tuesday. He was hitting it really well. He went and played nine holes and he didn't have a problem. He played the next day, he didn't have a problem. He stayed on the range that day, he didn't have a problem. So it's all nonsense as far as I'm concerned, and I don't want to talk about it anymore.''
Woods withdrew from The Players after nine holes Thursday because of knee and Achilles' tendon problems that had sidelined him since the Masters.
His early withdrawal led to speculation that he was playing as a favor.
''We communicate with players all the time with weak fields, weak-field events and we encourage players to move their schedule around and try to include a weak field,'' Finchem said. ''We never go to a player and say, 'Would you please, please, please play this event, this event or any other event, ever. And I don't recall ever talking to any player in my tenure about whether or not they were going to play The Players Championship.''
RARE EAGLE: Jason Day joined an elite club Sunday with his second shot on the par-4 14th.
Day struck a 5-iron from 185 yards and the ball rolled into the cup, only the fourth eagle on the 481-yard hole in the 30 years The Players has been held at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.
''I didn't even know it went in until everyone started yelling,'' Day said.
The eagle helped Day shoot a 4-under 68 and finish at 9-under 279 for the tournament.
Day's eagle was the first at No. 14 since Ken Duke in 2007. Ralph Landrum (1984) and Corey Pavin (1994) also made eagles at the hole that historically plays as one of the toughest on the Stadium Course.