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Henrik Stenson steady in winning PGA Tour's Players Championship

Henrik Stenson celebrates on the 18th hole with daughter Lisa after finishing his round of bogey-free 6-under 66.

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Henrik Stenson celebrates on the 18th hole with daughter Lisa after finishing his round of bogey-free 6-under 66.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH — Henrik Stenson was famous for reasons he never imagined.

Two months ago, he was best known as the Swede who stripped down to nothing but his underwear and a golf glove while playing from a water hazard at Doral. Out of curiosity, he searched the Internet and found 143 articles, more news than he ever got for his game.

"I guess I got as much attention off that thing as from my results the last 10 years," he said.

But on Sunday, his golf was all the rage at the Players Championship.

With a near-perfect final round, Stenson was the only player to stay bogey-free on his way to 6-under 66. That gave him a four-shot victory, the 10th of his career and by far his biggest.

"This is obviously going to be the latest thing on the resume," said Stenson, who finished at 12-under 276.

Coming into the day trailing by five shots on the treacherous TPC Sawgrass course, Stenson took advantage of a swift and shocking collapse by Alex Cejka, never had to worry about Tiger Woods and blew away everyone else in firm, fast conditions rarely seen this side of a major.

"I was thinking that if I could finish in front of Tiger, that might be good enough," said Ian Poulter, who shot 70 to finish second, four shots back. "But I wasn't expecting someone to go out there and shoot 66."

Cejka faded quickly with 42 on the front nine and wound up with 79.

Focus quickly shifted to Woods and whether he could rally to win from five shots behind as he did at Bay Hill. Not this time. He missed three fairways that led to bogeys on the front nine and trailed by as many as eight on the back nine.

"When you're playing a golf course like this and you don't have it, and the greens are this fast and this hard, you can shoot some pretty high numbers," he said.

Woods managed 73 to finish eighth, his first top 10 at TPC since he won in 2001 and his 16th consecutive top 10 in stroke-play events worldwide.

Stenson played so well that he had a four-shot lead at the 17th tee, his only mission to make sure his tee shot to the island green found grass beneath it. It did. And he kept his bogey-free round intact to the end, walking off the 18th green with his daughter in his arms.

"It's just going to give me a lot of confidence to go out there and control myself and play as well as I did on the last day at TPC Sawgrass and to hold off such a strong field," he said. "It's just going to give me a lot of confidence going into the majors. Obviously, if I can play as well as I did (Sunday), I surely can do it on a Sunday at the majors."

Stenson earned $1.71 million for a victory that moves him to No. 5 in the world rankings.

Stenson's other U.S. victory came at the Accenture Match Play Championship two years ago against the top 64 players in the world. He also won in Dubai, beating Woods by two shots.

John Mallinger (70) and Kevin Na (70) tied for third. They were among a dozen players who had hopes of winning on the back nine, one of the most unpredictable stretches in golf.

Players Championship

leaders 1 2 3 4to par

Henrik Stenson 68 69 73 66 -12

Ian Poulter 67 68 75 70 -8

John Mallinger 66 71 74 70 -7

Kevin Na 71 66 74 70 -7

Ben Crane 65 73 72 72 -6

Brian Davis 71 69 71 71 -6

Jim Furyk 68 74 71 69 -6

Notables

Tiger Woods 71 69 70 73 -5

Alex Cejka 66 67 72 79 -4

Vijay Singh 71 72 74 67 -4

Inside

Tiger Woods, above, failed to make a move, shooting 73, while playing partner Alex Cejka was in a free fall. 3C

A tale of two rounds

At the start of play Sunday, Alex Cejka led by five over six players including Henrik Stenson. The fourth round was vastly different:

Hole123456789out
Par45344443536
Stenson45344433434
Cejka55365544542
Hole101112131415161718InTot
Par4543445343672
Stenson4442434343266
Cejka3554445343779

Henrik Stenson steady in winning PGA Tour's Players Championship 05/10/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 11, 2009 4:22pm]
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