Clark played the final 26 holes without a bogey and made an 8-foot par on the final hole for a 5-under 67 to win The Players Championship with a record 36-hole comeback at TPC Sawgrass.
"I did all I could there," said Clark, a 34-year-old South African. "That's as good as I could have played."
He needed every shot on a course with greens that were crisp, firm and pale yellow. The average score was nearly three shots higher than it was for the previous three rounds.
Clark, seven shots behind going into the weekend, made four straight birdies around the turn to take the lead, and no one could catch him. Robert Allenby had the best chance, but an 18-foot eagle putt on the 16th and a 12-foot birdie try on the island-green 17th came within a fraction of an inch from going in.
Clark became only the second player to make The Players Championship his first PGA Tour victory. He had gone more than eight years and 204 tournament with nothing more to show than eight runner-up finishes.
Clark won for the fourth time worldwide, yet this was his finest performance. The Players Championship not only is the richest tournament in golf with a $9.5 million purse, it features the strongest and deepest field all year.
Clark won with a 66-67 weekend in which he made only one bogey -- the 10th hole on Saturday. It was the best weekend on the treacherous Stadium Course since Fred Couples shot 132 to win in 1996. The 36-hole comeback topped the record of six that Woods set when he won in 2001.
Clark finished at 16-under 272 and earned $1.71 million.
Clark was three shots behind until knocking in an 18-foot birdie putt on the par-5 ninth, and taking that momentum to the back nine. First came a 6-foot birdie on the 10th, then a tough shot out of the back bunker to 5 feet for birdie on the par-5 11th. He made it four straight birdies with an 18-foot birdie on the 12th to take the lead.
Then came a series of pars, none bigger than the 8-foot putt on the final hole while holding a two-shot lead over Allenby and Westwood, who were three holes behind him on the course.
Clark gritted his teeth and slammed his fist in celebration, a familiar seen at The Players Championship. It was the same kind of putt that Adam Scott made to win in 2004, Fred Funk a year later, and Sergio Garcia in 2008 to force a playoff.
Considering it was his first victory on the PGA Tour, it was all the more meaningful for Clark.
"You wouldn't find one guy in the locker room that wouldn't say he was going to win soon, and he deserves it," Glover said.