Thursday, 25 April, 2019

McIlroy captures Players Championship

RoryMcIlroyCropped Rory Mc Ilroy
Shannon Reynolds | 19 March, 2019, 09:58

McIlroy and Fleetwood struggled from the start and both eventually recovered, McIlroy sooner than Fleetwood. He got off to a rough start with a double bogie on the 4th hole and a bogie on the 7th. It was there that he propelled a sensational 180-yard six-iron bunker shot to set up a crucial bounce-back birdie. His only regret was a 3-foot par putt on the 15th. Same with the daunting tee shot at the 18th hole, the slew of players in contention and the windy conditions.

And what a boost this victory should provide McIlroy, who will be attempting for the fifth time to complete the career Grand Slam at The Masters, April 11-14.

The 29-year-old four-time major victor then finished with two pars to close out and seal his 15th US PGA Tour title. It was his sixth straight top ten on the PGA Tour, bettering his previous streak of five in 2015. He had four majors - missing only a green jacket - at age 25.

Like most who win THE PLAYERS, McIlroy played the final holes well.

"I'm going to sit down and see what I can take from this and try to put it into the next few weeks", he said in an interview for the BBC Golf podcast, The Cut.

Walking toward the green, McIlroy said he told NBC Sports analyst Roger Maltbie that "playing with Phil the last two days maybe inspired me to play a shot like that".

"So that has been a big thing".

"I think all the experience that I've racked up over those first 10 or 11 years means that I'm way more prepared for these next 10, and if you're more prepared, hopefully that means you can have more success".

McIlroy made two late birdies to regain the lead, was at his best when the pressure was the highest, and he closed with a 2-under 70 for a one-shot victory over Jim Furyk in his 10th appearance at The Players Championship.

But it was Furyk and McIlroy, consistent throughout the day, who separated themselves from the pack. Reigning champion Webb Simpson returns to defend his title, teeing up in March for the first time at the event.

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Prior to this victory, he finished T6 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he placed 2nd at the WGC-Mexico Championship, T4 at the Genesis Open, T5 at the Farmers Insurance Open and T4 at the Sentry Tournament of Championship.

"It's not a bad weekend for me", McIlroy said. "It's taken me a few weeks to get to this point but I feel like I'm playing some of the best golf of my life right now and I just need to keep going with it and keep doing the same things".

"If I hadn't won, I'd have said I didn't need one going into Augusta but it's nice to win on a course that will play similar to Augusta in a few weeks".

Woods is the only player to have won at Sawgrass and Augusta National in the same year (2001) and McIlroy needs to repeat the feat to join Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen in having won all four major titles.

The massive purse helped The Players attract the world's best golfers including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and others to play at TPC Sawgrass.

For instance, McIlroy had a bogey on 14, usually the toughest hole on the course, and then his drive at the 15th went into he wasn't sure what.

McIlroy, who has been a wunderkind since turning professional, has been inundated in recent months with questions about not winning lately and not capitalizing on final-round opportunities. I've had a front row seat in witnessing his enormous talent.

"The 18th was probably the most hard shot I had all day, knowing I had 4 to win, " said McIlroy, who pumped it 288 yards into the fairway.

"If anything they were good for me, I called them "remote misses", it gives you even more hope to go forward and go again. There was a lot of good stuff, and I just feel really happy with it".

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