PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. He finished 11 under par, seven shots behind Simspon and three back of second-place.
He said: 'I played so well this weekend. I hit it so good. "I just didn't make it happen".
"I finally got off to a good start in birdieing the first couple of holes and I just kept it rolling from here", said the 14-time major champion who is back in action this year after career-threatening back trouble. He began the final round looking up at Webb Simpson.
Feelings were as numerous as birdies for Simpson. He was in second, breathing down the neck of the leader Simpson. Woods was six under through 12 holes and got within four of the lead before falling hard, playing his last five holes in three over. "Now I'm just going to have to work more to be able to finish the job". "I know I have tied records but I don't think it matters until I win".
Tommy Fleetwood's 68 and 12 under could and should have been better but for a series of missed putts. "Just didn't go in". The idea that Woods might somehow triumph survived until the penultimate hole, the perilous par-3, where he dunked his ball in the aqua.
Simpson hit his tee shot in the water on 17 Friday, but stuck it to within three feet in Round 3 to exorcise his demons. He bogeyed the hole on Saturday.
The fairytale storyline was to come to an abrupt ending, a effect both of Simpson's unwillingness to reverse and Woods' own failings. Jordan Spieth who got the honor of pairing with Woods in the final round had a good final round and tournament.
"This weekend I hung in there to get it done". I had to draw it from the water. The pair finished one ahead of England's Andy Sullivan and Australian Lucas Herbert, who matched the lowest round of the week with a 63. "It was unlucky there".
He blamed a gust of wind, rather than a bad shot for that stumble, however.
"It was blowing downwind, and then, unfortunately, it switched in my face", he said.
Woods shot a final-round 69 after climbing as high as second before stumbling on the back nine. This year I think I'm in the top 10.
And maybe you are aghast that the player who finished in a tie for 11th on Sunday night is getting more exposure than the victor. He has subsequently moved up to 80th in the Official World Golf Ranking and 48th in the FedEx Cup.
Webb Simpson didn't need to hit it a mile to win the Players Championship and bring home a $1.98 million check.
He also spoke about his goal of playing in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Augusta at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. It is moving to Memphis, Tennessee, after this year. He needs to be in the top 50 in the world by July 23 or July 30 to qualify for the event.
"He'll win sometime soon enough", said Spieth.
While Woods didn't really get close enough to have an intimidatory effect on this occasion, fair play to Simpson, a former US Open victor, for landing his first victory since 2013 in real style. All in all, I think he played like a 5- or 6-under round, nearly shot 7 or 8 and ended up with 3. "Didn't know. But now I feel like I've got my playing feels and I'm playing tournament golf and I've got it". Woods will have only one more start, at the Memorial tournament in two weeks, to hone his game before the US Open at Shinnecock Hills.
Jason Day, among those at nine-under 207, had a four-shot lead when he won The Players two years ago. And he has some confidence.
I battled through, didn't have my best stuff today but it was good enough.