American Matt Kuchar won golf’s richest event at Sawgrass on Sunday night – and denied Scotland’s Martin Laird for the second time in his career.
Laird came close to pulling off a stunning victory at the Players Championship after starting the final day six behind.
But a bogey on the last by the 29-year-old Glaswegian for a round of 67 left Kuchar two in front with four holes to play and the world number 16 did not let things slip.
The gap became three when he got up and down from off the green at the long 16th and, after three-putting the short 17th for bogey, he safely parred the dangerous last.
A two-under-par round of 70 gave Kuchar the first prize of £1,063,000 by two on 13 under par.
In the end Laird had to settle for a four-way tie for second, being joined by Americans Zach Johnson, Ben Curtis and last week’s winner in Charlotte, Rickie Fowler, who after birdies at the 16th and 17th missed a seven-foot chance on the last that would have placed huge pressure on the eventual champion.
It was Kuchar’s first title since The Barclays in 2010 – when he beat Laird in a play-off.
For a while it looked as if England’s Luke Donald had a sniff of a chance when he set the early clubhouse target of nine under with a 66 – only 30 of them in a tournament record-equalling back nine which contained six birdies.
As he signed his scorecard Donald was in a tie for third place and only two off the pace, but in the end had to settle for sixth.
That also meant he narrowly failed to reclaim the world number one spot from Rory McIlroy. Donald required solo fourth for that.
Even with his slip at the last – he only just avoided the lake with his pulled approach and failed to get up and down – Laird was still delighted with how he stood up to the pressure.
“I wasn’t nervous and felt great out there,” he said. “It was a little disappointing to bogey the last, but it’s been a good week.”
Donald, who started the day 27th, said just after finishing more than two hours before Kuchar: “Suddenly the putts clicked and I got on a nice little run.
“The wind direction was favourable and the greens are holding.
“I thought I was too far back, but I might have to stick around just in case.
“I don’t think it’s going to be quite enough, but I was going to fly back to Chicago and I’ll put that on hold for a bit.”
Lee Westwood had also had an opportunity to finish the week as number one following Rory McIlroy’s missed cut on Friday, but the win he needed never looked likely for long before he closed with a 77.
It left Westwood four over and down in 61st place, while another disappointing tournament for Tiger Woods ended with him scoring 73 for one under.
He was 40th just like he was at the Masters and in between came a missed cut at Quail Hollow. Worrying times for the 14-major winner.
Donald started his burst with a hat-trick of birdies from the 10th, then made putts of seven feet at the 15th and eight feet on the long 16th.
The infamous short 17th held no fears for him on this day. He hit his tee shot to five feet and his renowned bunker prowess rescued a par at the last after he had gone from the rough into sand over the green.
Londoner Brian Davis was alongside Laird in sixth place at the start of the day, but a double bogey on the sixth was the beginning of the end for him.