Maggert falters at 17, gets best finish since ’06
(AP) PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - Jeff Maggert will remember one thing about The Players Championship.
Not his water ball on the famed island 17th hole that led to double-bogey Sunday. Not his birdie on 18, just the fifth of the day at the ultra-challenging closing hole. Not even his runner-up finish, the 49-year-old Texan’s best showing since winning the 2006 St. Jude Classic.
Five three-putts stood out more than everything else at TPC Sawgrass.
"I gave away five shots," Maggert said following a 2-under 70 in the final round that left him in a three-way tie behind winner Tiger Woods.
Maggert recalled each of them with vivid detail: two in the final round, one Saturday and two more in the opening 18 holes.
"I’ll remember that a lot more than I will remember the shot at 17," he said.
Having four missed cuts and a withdrawal in his previous seven events, Maggert found himself in a four-way tie at 12-under before stumbling at the tricky 17th. He avoided looking at the leaderboard before he pulled a 9-iron out of his bag for the relatively short (135 yards) shot.
He had hoped to hit his ball to the middle of the green and two-putt for par. Instead, he caught his tee shot a little thin, causing it to come up short against a stiff wind and plop into the murky lagoon.
"You just live with it," he said. "You know it’s going to be a test of nerves, and you just go up there and try to hit a good shot. At the end of the tournament, when things are on the line, it’s the ultimate risk-reward. So you’ve just got to get up there and try to hit a good shot and get out of there with a par."
He chipped on from the drop area and walked away with a double-bogey _ and little chance of catching Woods.
He bounced back on 18 and earned, by far, his best finish of the year. His previous best was a tie for 46th at Pebble Beach.
"Just disappointed to come up short," he said. "But it’s a funny thing about this game. You put it behind you, you go to next week, you get up on the first tee on Thursday and you start all over. If you’re worried about what happened four days prior, then you’re not going to last very long out here."
The best news for Maggert was that his third-place finish at the tour’s richest event meant he virtually locked up his PGA Tour card for 2014.
"The ball-striking has been great all year," Maggert said. "The last two or three weeks I was pretty disappointed. My position, the way I’ve played and then this week I just tried to be patient. I know this is a good golf course for my game, so maybe a late start to the season for me.
"Hopefully I can build on this and put some good tournaments together here for the rest of the summer."
TIGER’S DROP: Playing partner Casey Wittenberg and Mark Russell, vice president of competition for the PGA Tour, have no concerns about Tiger Woods’ drop on the par-4 14th hole.
Woods hit a high, sweeping hook into the water down the left side of the fairway. There were questions about where Woods took the drop _ some 255 yards from the hole. NBC Sports analyst Johnny Miller suggested it was a "borderline" spot. But Russell said there was nothing wrong with it.
Woods conferred with Wittenberg, who said there was "no doubt" that Woods took the drop in the right spot.
"He asked me exactly where it crossed," Wittenberg said. "I told him I thought it crossed on the corner of the bunker, right where he took his drop. And it’s all good."
Woods said there was no point in conferring with rules officials since they weren’t even on the hole.
"If they’re not there, they can’t see it," he said. "The only guys who really know are Casey and his caddie, so that’s who we rely on."
RORY’S ROAD: After missing the cut the last three years at The Players Championship, Rory McIlroy may have finally figured some things out this week.
McIlroy birdied four of his final six holes Sunday, getting to 7-under and walking off TPC Sawgrass with some course confidence.
"I think my game plan worked pretty well," he said. "I didn’t play the par-5s particularly well. I played the 9th hole in 3-over par. You play that at level par and you’re 10-under for the tournament and you’re up there. But I thought my strategy off the tee worked really well for the most part and that enabled me to have more opportunities for birdies."
McIlroy kept his driver in the bag for many holes, preferring to hit fairway woods while worrying more about placement and accuracy. It could come in hand at other courses on his schedule.
"It’s sort of a little stretch here where you’re not going to be going all guns blazing off the tee," he said.
McIlroy will take the next week off and work on his putting. He ranked 57th in putting at Sawgrass.
"Tee to green I thought I played really, really well," he said, adding that reading the Bermuda greens proved challenging. "I just didn’t hole the putt. So I’ve got a week off now, and I’ll go and work on that and see if I can improve around the greens. If I can do that and keep hitting the ball the same way, I think it’s very, very close."
DIVOTS: David Lingmerth’s runner-up finish set a new mark for the best showing by a PGA Tour rookie at The Players. ... The weekend at The Players yielded no bogey-free rounds. ... A total of 44 balls landed in the water surrounding the famed 17th hole. That includes 39 tee shots and five third shots.
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