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More frustration for Lee Westwood as he loses Players Championship to Justin Thomas

More frustration for Lee Westwood as Brit is edged out by ONE shot to lose The Players Championship to Justin Thomas – who becomes only second player EVER to win the title, a major and have 10 PGA Tour wins by age of 28Justin Thomas edged out Lee Westwood by one stroke to win at SawgrassThe American held his nerve in the final stages to win the Players ChampionshipIt is the second time in as many weeks Westwood has agonisingly missed out 

At the end of another gripping Sunday afternoon at the Players Championship, Lee Westwood’s fiancée and caddy Helen Storey removed the 18th hole flag from its staff, folded it neatly and walked over to the recorder’s hut to hand it to the victor, Justin Thomas, as part of the winner’s spoils.

Even now, in these glorious sunset years of his career, it still seems to be Westwood’s fate always to finish agonisingly close in the game’s biggest events.

This was the second week running on the PGA Tour that he had finished second, as a holed birdie putt from 20ft at the 18th left him one shot shy of the total posted by Thomas.  

Lee Westwood suffered heartbreak in the final stages to lose at the Players Championship

American Justin Thomas held his nerve in the final moments at Sawgrass to take the title

Westwood’s fiancée and caddy Helen Storey (left) was the first to console him at the end

Seven days earlier, Westwood had left Bay Hill with no regrets after similarly losing by the slenderest of margins to Bryson DeChambeau. This time he didn’t play anything like as well but rightly there was again no sense of self-recrimination.

‘What do I take out of these two weeks? Just a great deal of pride,’ said the Englishman. ‘These are the top players in the world, I’m giving them 20-25 years and clearly I can still give them a game. I’m really enjoying myself and it’s a thrill to be out here still contending.’ 

Thomas played some brilliant golf over the weekend to get the job done, posting scores of 64-68, but he enjoyed an outrageous moment of good fortune at the 18th to seal his success.

Spinning alarmingly to the left, it looked for all the world like his drive would finish in the water hazard that runs the length of this hole. Against all the laws of science, however, his ball somehow bounced to the right to stay on dry land, and Thomas’s relieved expression spoke volumes. He knew how lucky he’d been.  

At 47 it was remarkable Westwood was holding his own and was in the mix right at the end

The 27-year-old spoiled what was supposed to be the second instalment of Westwood against DeChambeau. What transpired was simply more evidence that sequels are never as good as the original.

DeChambeau was far from his best but he plays with such heart and an eagle at the 16th kept him interested to the end. His birdie putt at the 18th horseshoed wickedly out and he had to settle for tied third. 

How typical of Westwood that he should beat the man who was supposed to be his main rival for the title and yet still did not get the trophy. Again, he showed commendable restraint. ‘If you can’t handle finishing second in these big events, you’re in the wrong job,’ he said.

The final round built to its suspenseful conclusion following a start no-one could possibly have predicted. You think you’ve seen everything but what happened at the 4th surely added another page. DeChambeau certainly echoed the thoughts of the watching millions when he turned to his caddie and exclaimed: ‘Oh my gosh, what is going on?’ 

We’d tuned in expecting a sterling re-run between the biggest draw in the sport and Britain’s sporting marvel and on this hole it was more like the Sawgrass monthly medal. 

There was a handshake of respect at the end for Bryson DeChambeau and Westwood (right)

The hole only measures 382 yards, for goodness sake. If there wasn’t a creek in front of the green, DeChambeau would have had a go at driving it. Instead he played safe with a three wood and – believe it or not – stone cold topped it into a water hazard. What a break for Westy. Except he hit his three wood 40 yards off line into another water hazard.

When DeChambeau hit his third shot off the planet to the right, it was hardly surprising he should scream his frustration, and the viewing audience nod their agreement. As it was, it took a world class chip from DeChambeau to rescue a double bogey. Westwood was relieved to walk off with a five.

Normal service was resumed on the back nine, and the wonderful collection of risk/reward holes that make this event so compelling. It was Thomas who played them best to became just the second player after – who else? – Tiger Woods to win this flagship PGA Tour event, a major and ten other tournaments before the age of 28.

It wasn’t the result all Britain wanted but no-one could argue, therefore, about the winner’s pedigree. The Players never fails to deliver. 

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