PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – It took a finish of historic proportions to crown a winner at the 2015 Players Championship. To start, Rickie Fowler played the last four holes in 5 under par, lower than any player in the history of the tournament at the Stadium Course to finish at -12.
There were still plenty of players on the golf course who could tie or beat him with birdies down the stretch. Fowler bogeyed the 10th hole to fall to -6 and probably figured he was out of it. In fact, his mom and sister headed to the airport to catch a flight.
But starting at 13, Rickie played the next six holes in -6 going birdie, par, birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie to take the lead in the clubhouse. He signed his scorecard and headed to the back range to stay loose.
Birdieing the 17th hole for the sixth time in the six tries this week, Fowler won the Players on the fourth playoff hole, beating Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner by making a 5-footer for the title.
"I had a perfect yardage on 17 today, a choke down gap wedge so it was just a matter of hitting it."
When I mentioned that he had made five birdies in six tries this week Fowler grinned and said, "Yeah, like I said, I played 17 pretty good this week."
Meanwhile, Garcia had played the front side in 33 strokes and had the outright lead until a bogey on 14 left him two back. He then birdied 16 and rolled in a monster putt on 17 to go to -12. He had a chance on 18 but settled for par and a spot in the playoff.
Kisner was two back before birdies on 16 and 17 and a miss on 18 earned him the third spot in three-hole playoff. It's the first three-man playoff at the Players since it was across the street at Sawgrass Country Club. In the final year there, 1981, Raymond Floyd parred the first playoff hole, 15, to beat Curtis Strange and Barry Jaeckel for the title.
Garcia parred all three holes in the playoff but was eliminated when Fowler and Kisner birdied 17.
"It was another great week at the Players. It's been a little bit of a funny year for me. I saw a lot of positive things here and I hope to take those with me for the rest of the season."
Kisner played well and thought he had won it on the 72nd hole. "I thought I made it the first time on 18. But I'll have my chances. Nobody's going to give it to you. These guys are great players. I was in one a few weeks ago,(at Hilton Head) so I'll have my chances."
There were some low scores earlier in the day in the final round, but the golf course changed as the afternoon wore on, got more difficult and bunched the field. Rory Sabbatini shot 69 to finish at -9 and said it felt like a big time tournament on Sunday afternoon.
"I think this is what you expect here. This is what we're accustomed to, seeing this course really show its teeth.
World Number one Rory McIlroy posted another 70 and admitted he was frustrated again.
"It's just that sort of course. No one is going low. I'm three behind the leader (at the time) and that's coming off feeling like I've left between five and 10 shots out there this week."
Local resident Billy Horschel said a camera click in his back swing threw him off his game on the second nine. Horschel said it was an older lady and he spoke to her but he couldn't recover, bogeying 10 and 11.
"I took the club back and I was always afraid there was going to be a camera click." Horschel finished at -7 with birdies on 16 and 17.
Although he never contended this week, Tiger Woods said his game is coming around as he preps for the US Open in June. After an even par 72 in the final round that included five birdies and a triple bogey on 14, he says he's getting better with each round.
"Look where I was at on the West Coast and where I'm at now. So let's just keep progressing, keep putting the pieces together, keep chipping away at it."