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Masters invite tops list of winning perks

For Craig Perks, there areperks that come with winning the Players Championship.

Start with the five-year PGA Tour exemption, significant for someone who has gone to the qualifying tournament nine times.

Then there is a spot in all four major championships, including next month's Masters. Perks gets a three-year invitation to the Masters and a four-year invite to the British Open.

Especially gratifying is the invite to the Masters in two weeks. For those not invited, winning the Players Championship was the last way to earn a spot in the field.

"I was going to watch it on TV," Perks said. "I was looking forward to seeing the changes (to Augusta National). Now I am going to see them real close. I have had a few opportunities to go there and watch. I never wanted to go. I always wanted to earn my way there, and I have."

ADIOS, OPPORTUNITIES: Sergio Garcia was among a group of players who felt he squandered a great opportunity.

"The way I played (Sunday), I should have been at least 8-under par going to 18 at least," said Garcia, who finished two strokes back. "It's unbelievable. Sometimes the ball doesn't want to go in the hole. I hit the ball extremely well. I gave myself as many birdie chances and eagle chances as I could. I just couldn't get any to go in."

Garcia, coming off birdie at the par-5 16th, was one shot behind clubhouse leader Stephen Ames when he made a bold play at the par-3 17th, hitting a pitching wedge 8 feet below the hole. But he missed the putt that would have tied him for the lead.

"The putter is in the bag, too, and it counts," said Garcia, who finished tied for fourth. "Unfortunately, it didn't work for me this week."

NO DEFENSE: There was no defense of his TPC title. In fact, Tiger Woods was unable to break 70 during any round, including Sunday's 74. "I just didn't quite get on a run there early in the round," said Woods, who tied for 14th.

Woods will not play again until he defends his Masters title beginning April 11.

Although he led the field in greens hit in regulation, Woods was last in putting, 33.25 per round, including 36 Sunday. But he won't be working on just the flat stick. "Ball-striking, chipping, putting I'll work on every facet," he said. "You have to in order to win at Augusta."

SPEED KILLS: Carl Paulson birdied the first hole and had a three-stroke lead, but it was a struggle after that. He bogeyed four holes in a row, starting with the third, and shot 77. When he missed a short par putt at 18, he dropped from a tie for third to a tie for fourth, costing him $122,000. "I just couldn't get used to the speed of the greens," said Paulson, who made $226,200.

ET CETERA: Clearwater's John Huston moved into a tie for ninth with a final-round 70 and earned $168,000. He has won $368,000 the past two weeks to move to 28th on the PGA Tour money list. Perks became the seventh first-time winner on tour this season. The $1.080-million he earned moved him to second on the money list with $1,347,614. There were 11 balls that found the water on the par-3 17th, 75 for the tournament. The hole played as the third-toughest of the tournament, averaging 3.276 strokes.

_ BOB HARIG

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