Rickie Fowler confounded his critics by dramatically beating Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner in a play-off to clinch the prestigious Players Championship – the unofficial fifth major – at Sawgrass.
The trio finished on 12-under but Fowler beat Kisner at the first sudden death hole after Garcia bravely bowed out at the conclusion of the thrilling three-hole play-off.
It was Fowler’s second US Tour win after capturing the Wells Fargo Championship nearly three years ago and he admitted: “I felt really good all week, this is special.”
In the first three-hole aggregate play-off in PGA Tour history, Garcia could only play the 16th, 17th and 18th in level par as Fowler and Kisner played them in one under thanks to birdies on the 17th.
And Fowler (26) then repeated the trick on the first hole of sudden death to give him a prize of $1.8m (£1.16m) in the tournament often dubbed as golf’s richest event.
The victory came in the week Fowler and England’s Ian Poulter were voted the most overrated players by their peers in a Sports Illustrated survey but Fowler believes the win answers his critics.
“I laughed at the poll, but I was always looked at as only having one win on tour, and I always felt that I needed to put myself in position to win more often.
“I look at this event as basically like a major. It has the major feel, obviously one of the best fields we play all year, on a tough course.
“This will definitely give me momentum going into the US Open and makes me feel confident about being in this situation and taking care of business.”
Rory McIlroy fired a final-round 69 to finish on eight under, alongside Wales’ Jamie Donaldson.
Tiger Woods had a final round of 72, which left the 14-time major winner on +3, joint 69th of the 75 players to make the cut.
In Rickie’s bag
The clubs that won The Players….
Driver: Cobra Fly-Z+ (Matrix Prototype 70x), 10.5 degrees
3-wood: Cobra Fly-Z+, 14 degrees
5-wood: Cobra Bio Cell+, 18.5 degrees
Irons (4-9): Cobra Fly-Z Pro MB; (PW): Cobra Tour Trusty
Wedges: Cobra Tour Trusty (51, 57, 62 degrees)
Putter: Scotty Cameron by Titleist prototype
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x