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Justin Thomas' Players Championship win over Lee Westwood 'evidence that mind and body needed to succeed'

Justin Thomas' Players Championship win over Lee Westwood 'evidence that mind and body needed to succeed'

Another thrilling Players Championship, where an inspired Justin Thomas held off a gutsy Lee Westwood, offered plentiful evidence that both body and mind have to be spot on to succeed at the highest level.

There could be no doubting the state of Westwood's temperament as, for the second consecutive week, he produced a display of great heart and sporting bravery.

He was, though, undone by ageing, aching limbs that undermined the control needed to prosper in such a demanding tournament. Every other leading contender broke par in the final round while Westwood signed for a level-par 72.

That proved insufficient against an opponent who produced high quality, ruthless golf to end the rockiest spell of his otherwise brilliant career. Thomas came within inches of hitting every green in regulation in a stunning display of ball striking.

The 27-year-old had little cause to feel fondness towards 2021 until this victory, his biggest since winning the US PGA Championship four years ago - his solitary major so far. In January on-course microphones picked up his homophobic slur while competing in Hawaii.

It cost him a big sponsorship deal but more importantly a previously impeccable reputation. Then his inspirational grandfather Paul died before his close friend Tiger Woods was badly injured in a car crash.

"I've had stuff happen in my life I never thought I'd have happen, and I mean, losing grandpa was terrible," said the champion.

In a similar way to Bryson DeChambeau the week before, Thomas received encouraging texts from Woods before his final round and the result was the same, a one-shot win over the plucky Westwood.

There were two missed cuts and no top-10 finishes for Thomas during that unsettling period, but that bumpy spell was banished with last Sunday's triumph which has taken him from third to second in the world rankings.

There was a huge turning point with Saturday's eight-under-par 64, the lowest round of the week at TPC Sawgrass. And then he backed it up with his superb 68 as he equalled the record for the lowest aggregate score for the final 36 holes at the Players by a champion.

"The head space that I was in this week was a huge step for me," Thomas added.

"I was in a lot better place than I have been the last couple months, so I think that was huge, and I don't think it's any coincidence that my golf was better."

Thomas is rightly proud of an achievement that means he matches only Woods in having won The Players along with 10 tour titles and a major by the age of 28. 

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