Maggert falters at 17, gets best finish since ‘06

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLA. (AP) - Jeff Maggert will remember one thing about The Players Championship.

Not his water ball on the famed island 17th hole that led to double-bogey Sunday. Not his birdie on 18, just the fifth of the day at the ultra-challenging closing hole. Not even his runner-up finish, the 49-year-old Texan’s best showing since winning the 2006 St. Jude Classic.

Five three-putts stood out more than everything else at TPC Sawgrass.

“I gave away five shots,” Maggert said following a 2-under 70 in the final round that left him in a three-way tie behind winner Tiger Woods.

Maggert recalled each of them with vivid detail: two in the final round, one Saturday and two more in the opening 18 holes.

“I’ll remember that a lot more than I will remember the shot at 17,” he said.

Having four missed cuts and a withdrawal in his previous seven events, Maggert found himself in a four-way tie at 12-under before stumbling at the tricky 17th. He avoided looking at the leaderboard before he pulled a 9-iron out of his bag for the relatively short (135 yards) shot.

He had hoped to hit his ball to the middle of the green and two-putt for par. Instead, he caught his tee shot a little thin, causing it to come up short against a stiff wind and plop into the murky lagoon.

“You just live with it,” he said. “You know it’s going to be a test of nerves, and you just go up there and try to hit a good shot. At the end of the tournament, when things are on the line, it’s the ultimate risk-reward. So you’ve just got to get up there and try to hit a good shot and get out of there with a par.”

He chipped on from the drop area and walked away with a double-bogey _ and little chance of catching Woods.

He bounced back on 18 and earned, by far, his best finish of the year. His previous best was a tie for 46th at Pebble Beach.

“Just disappointed to come up short,” he said. “But it’s a funny thing about this game. You put it behind you, you go to next week, you get up on the first tee on Thursday and you start all over. If you’re worried about what happened four days prior, then you’re not going to last very long out here.”

The best news for Maggert was that his third-place finish at the tour’s richest event meant he virtually locked up his PGA Tour card for 2014.

“The ball-striking has been great all year,” Maggert said. “The last two or three weeks I was pretty disappointed. My position, the way I’ve played and then this week I just tried to be patient. I know this is a good golf course for my game, so maybe a late start to the season for me.

“Hopefully I can build on this and put some good tournaments together here for the rest of the summer.”

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