PONTE VEDRA BEACH — Tim Clark couldn't afford to look at the leaderboard, much less consider what it would mean to end 205 tournaments of frustration and finally win on the PGA Tour.
He was simply trying to survive Sunday at the Players Championship in the most demanding conditions.
Clark played the final 26 holes bogey-free. He set a Stadium Course record with the largest 36-hole comeback. And with an 8-foot par on the final hole to shoot 5-under 67, he no longer had the distinction as the richest player without a PGA Tour victory.
"A part of me is a bit disappointed because now no one is going to talk about me anymore," Clark said. "At least you had something to write about before. Now I'm just another guy with a win."
Regarded among the best without a PGA Tour title, Clark shed that label by beating the best field in golf.
He made four birdies around the turn to surge past Lee Westwood and Robert Allenby, steadied himself on the scary island-green 17th for par then finished off his amazing weekend with a demonstrative fist pump when his par putt fell.
"I did all I could there," said Clark, 34, of South Africa. "That's as good as I could have played."
Allenby had the best chance to catch him, but ended up a stroke back. He narrowly missed an 18-foot eagle on the 16th hole to tie for the lead. His next chance came on No. 17 until a 12-foot birdie putt lipped out. Allenby couldn't make birdie on the tough 18th, and settled for 70.
"For it to go up to the hole and take a little look over the top and then come back, that was a bit rude," Allenby said of 17. "But obviously, the golfing gods were with Tim today, and I can accept that. I did everything that I could possibly do to try and win the tournament."
Tiger Woods created a buzz without being there most of the day, withdrawing on the seventh hole because of a neck injury that he fears might be from a bulging disc.
Phil Mickelson could have moved to No. 1 in the world with a victory, passing Woods. But the Masters champion bogeyed three of his opening six holes, closed with 74 and tied for 17th.
Clark won for the fourth time worldwide, yet this was his finest performance. The Players Championship not only is the richest tournament in golf with a $9.5 million purse, it features the strongest and deepest field all year.
Clark, who was seven shots off the lead after Friday's second round, closed with 66-67, making only one bogey on the weekend — No. 10 on Saturday. It was the best weekend on the treacherous Stadium Course since Fred Couples shot 132 to win in 1996. The 36-hole comeback topped the record of six that Woods set when he won in 2001.
Clark finished at 16-under 272 and earned $1.71 million to bring his career earnings to $16,432,653, ranking him 43rd all-time.
U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot 31 on the back, including a 50-foot birdie on the 17th, and wound up third at 14-under 274.
Westwood had the 54-hole lead, just like the Masters, and again couldn't hold on. He made one clutch par after another, including a 50-footer on No. 15, but his hopes ended with a tee shot into the water on the 17th to make double bogey.
"I just didn't play well enough today," Westwood said.
Clark was three shots behind until knocking in an 18-foot birdie on the par-5 ninth and taking that momentum to the back nine. First came a 6-foot birdie on the 10th, then a tough shot out of the back bunker to 5 feet for birdie on the par-5 11th. He made it four straight birdies with an 18-foot birdie on No. 12 to take the lead.
ANOTHER DROUGHT ENDS: Fredrik Andersson Hed of Sweden won the Italian Open in Turin, his first victory in 245 attempts, by two shots. He shot 1-over 73 for 272 total, hanging on to top David Horsey after leading by six heading into the last day. "It means a lot for me to win, both ranking wise on the Tour and self-belief," said Andersson Hed, 38, who first joined the tour in 1992 but has had 14 visits to its qualifying school.
BETHUNE-COOKMAN TITLE: The Bethune-Cookman women earned their eighth title at the PGA Minority Collegiate Golf Championship in Port St. Lucie. The Wildcats had a tournament-record 885 total. Texas-Pan American won the men's title.