Golf

Fowler finishes strong, fails to pressure Kuchar

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida (AP)

Rickie Fowler nearly made things interesting at The Players Championship.

Fowler birdied Nos. 16 and 17 and really could have put pressure on Matt Kuchar had he made an 8-footer on the final hole. Instead, Fowler pushed the putt right, closed with par and allowed Kuchar to play the 18th with a two-shot cushion and little drama.

''Wouldn't mind having the putt over on 18,'' Fowler said. ''It was a tough putt just because of how straight it was and just started a little right. That's the hard thing about straight putts: you've got to him them in the middle or they don't go in.''

Fowler, coming off his first PGA Tour win last week at Quail Hollow, shot up the leaderboard Saturday and started the final round two strokes back. He was on the move Sunday until a double-bogey on No. 5. He rallied on the back nine, but made enough mistakes to prevent him from winning in consecutive weeks.

Or putting heat on Kuchar.

''It was a lot of fun, a lot of fun to be in the moment,'' Fowler said. ''That's why we play the game. It's nice to be back hanging around with the guys in contention.''

Fowler shot a 2-under 70 in the final round and finished in a four-way tie for second.

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WOODS STREAKING: Tiger Woods set a personal record at The Players, one he would rather forget.

For the first time in his career, Woods failed to finish better than 40th for the third consecutive event. He struggled at the Masters last month and finished in a tie for 40th. He missed the cut last week at Quail Hollow.

He was in danger of missing consecutive cuts for the first time in his career following a 2-over 74 in the first round Thursday, but he got hot in the second round and managed to stick around for the weekend. He shot a 1-over 73 in the final round Sunday and finished at 1-under 287 and tied for 40th.

''Just keep working,'' Woods said. ''Keep working. I felt that I did it well in spurts again. Just need to be a little bit more consistent, and as I said earlier in the week, just got to play the par 5s better than I did. That's something I didn't do. I had a lot of irons into the par 5s and didn't take care of them.''

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SLOW PLAY: With Kevin Na and Zach Johnson on the leaderboard for much of The Players, pace of play was a major topic of conversation.

Na provided painful viewing as he took hundreds of waggles while setting up over the ball. He backed off shots if he didn't feel comfortable and purposely missed a few times so he could start over. Johnson wasn't a whole lot faster, reaffirming his spot as one of the slowest on tour.

Tiger Woods, who had hoped PGA Tour officials would address slow play four years ago, said Sunday that things have gotten worse.

''Last week we were playing in 4:40 and there's no wind,'' Woods said. ''That's hard to believe. But yeah, we have gotten slower on tour. College has gotten just incredibly slow. It's so bad that now we are giving the guys the ability to use lasers to try to speed up play, and they are still in, you know, 5:45, 6-plus.''

Woods said the solution is simple: Golfers who take too much time should be assessed a one-stroke penalty. No warnings, either.

''I think that would speed it up,'' he said.

Woods has never played alongside Na, but said his waggles reminded him of Sergio Garcia's pre-shot routine several years ago.

''I've never experienced anything like that, but I've seen it before,'' Woods said. ''I played with Sergio in 2002, and you know, I think one of the holes he re-gripped it 20-plus times. So I have seen it, but I've never seen Kevin do it in person. I've never had an opportunity to play with him.

''But sometimes it's tough pulling the trigger. Some guys have an easier time committing and going, and other guys don't.''

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CADDIE CRAZE: Ben Curtis and his caddie got a kick out of playing with fan favorite Rickie Fowler.

Curtis' caddie also is named Ricky, and Ricky Elliott couldn't help but hear all the ''Rickie! Rickie!'' chants going on around him for 18 holes.

''It was crazy,'' Curtis said. ''They love him, that's for sure. ... We kept teasing him all day, `Ricky, why are they calling your name?' It was a lot of fun. A lot of young kids out here, and it's great for the game.''

Tagged: Tiger Woods, Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler, Ben Curtis, Kevin Na

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