PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The resilience it takes to get through a nerve-jangling Sunday at TPC Sawgrass was nothing compared with what Justin Thomas had been through already this year.
An otherwise impeccable start to his PGA Tour career on and off the course came under scrutiny in January when he muttered an antigay slur under his breath, which cost him one sponsor and led another to publicly reprimand him. Tougher still was the death last month of his grandfather Paul, part of the legacy of golf pros in the Thomas family.
He found the right time to deliver a gem.
Thomas took on every shot in The Players Championship, right down to the 5-wood that rode the edge of the lake down the left side of the 18th fairway on the Stadium Course, and closed with a 4-under-par 68 for a one-stroke victory over Lee Westwood (72).
The 27-year-old American and former University of Alabama standout finished at 14-under 274 and won a tournament for the seventh straight year. His 14th career title on the PGA Tour makes him only the fourth player to win a major, The Players Championship, the FedEx Cup season title and a World Golf Championship.
"It's been a crappy couple months. I've had stuff happen in my life I never thought I'd have happen," Thomas said. "Losing grandpa was terrible, and having to play a round of golf dealing with that, and then on top of that not playing well, it just was a lot, and it took a lot on me mentally.
"This week was huge to win a big championship like this in front of fans again, which is incredible. It tested me mentally, physically, emotionally, and I'm very proud of myself for getting it done."
Like most Sundays at the PGA Tour's premier event, it was wild as ever. Thomas was four shots behind when he walked off the green on the par-3 eighth with a three-putt bogey. Four holes later, he walked off the 12th green with a two-shot lead.
He hit a 5-iron to 20 feet to set up a two-putt birdie on the par-5 ninth. He took on a tough pin at No. 10 for a six-foot birdie. He drilled a 4-iron to 20 feet for an eagle at No. 11 for his first lead of the tournament, and he capped the run with a nifty pitch from behind the green on the reachable par-4 12th for birdie.
Westwood was a hard-luck runner-up for the second straight week — to Bryson DeChambeau in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and then to Thomas, two major champions who were born in 1993, the year the 47-year-old Englishman turned pro. Westwood had a two-shot lead over DeChambeau after the third round.
He was tied for the lead Sunday until he couldn't match Thomas, playing in the group ahead, on the par-5 16th.
"When you're in contention, you'd like to win every tournament you're playing in," Westwood said. "But I didn't quite have my game today."
DeChambeau (71) and former University of Georgia standout Brian Harman (69) tied for third at 12 under.
No playoff needed
DOHA, Qatar — Antoine Rozner holed a 60-foot birdie putt to close out a 2-under-par 69 and a one-shot victory in the Qatar Masters, moving the 28-year-old from France high enough in the Official World Golf Ranking to qualify for the World Golf Championship's Dell Technologies Match Play tournament set for March 24-28 in Austin, Texas.
Rozner was tied for the lead with Italy's Guido Migliozzi, who had closed with a 65 at Education City Golf Club, when his approach on the 18th left him far enough away that his best hope appeared to be two putts for par and a playoff. Instead, he made the double-breaking putt for his second European Tour victory in just 29 events.
Rozner finished at 8-under 276. India's Gaganjeet Bhullar (69) and South Africa's Darren Fichardt (71), the 54-hole leader, also made birdies on the 18th that allowed them to join Migliozzi in a tie for second.