By Laura Price
Rory McIlroy takes this year’s Players Championship title after a tight final day at TPC Sawgrass. The Sunday saw a dramatic finale with 11 players within three shots of winning after the turn. It was anyone’s game, but McIlroy held his nerve throughout to clinch a one-shot victory over Jim Furyk.
McIlroy finished the first round five under, a steady round with very few mistakes to put him two behind joint leaders Tommy Fleetwood and Keegan Bradley.
Friday saw McIlroy’s best round of the championship with six birdies and an eagle taking him to 12 under for the tournament. Now tied for the lead with Fleetwood McIlroy had work to do in the final 36 holes.
In the third round he was slow to get going. Nothing special happening for Rory on day three but a steady round nonetheless. He finished at two under, one shot behind new leader Jon Rahm.
On the final day all the leaders started slowly bringing a cluster of players into contention. Late charges from Eddie Pepperell and Jonotthan Vegas both holing monster putts on the 17th green to set the clubhouse lead at 14 under.
McIlroy hit trouble on the fourth making double bogey after his second shot found the water. He recovered well on the back nine, his bunker shot from 180 yards on the 15th to make birdie was the turning point for McIlroy’s final round but he hadn’t won yet.
Jim Furyk birdied the 18th hole to cap off a wonderful for the 48-year-old. Finishing 15 under, he set the precedent for what Rory had to do.
With three holes to go Tommy Fleetwood was the only player capable of catching Rory but he needed something special being four shots behind. He gave himself a chance by eagling the 16th but ended his dreams of being the first English player to win The Players Championship when he hit his tee shot into the water on the infamous 17th.
McIlroy took the lead after a birdie on 16 putting him one shot ahead of Furyk. He held his nerve over the last two holes, to finish par par on arguably the toughest two closing holes in golf.
A solid close to a great tournament for McIlroy, his 15th PGA Tour win. After his best start to a season in years, finishing in the top six in his last six tournaments, he looks in good shape ahead of The Masters. Rory is the clear favourite with the bookmakers, after seemingly overcoming his putting woes of 2017. It will be interesting to see how he gets on at WGC Match Play just a week before the masters, this might be the year McIlroy overcomes Sunday at Augusta.