Rory McIlroy ends year-long wait for win with Players Championship victory

Rex Christensen
March 18, 2019

McIlroy headed into the final round two under par and in contention for the title.

"I've just got to do my thing, and if I go and I concentrate on me, control what I can do, good golf and good attitude takes care of the rest". He responded with his best shot of the day to 15 feet for birdie.

"I've been disciplined this year in not reading a lot of stuff about myself, so that has helped because I haven't read any of the negativity or anything", he said. He is fully aware the Masters is just around the corner.

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 a special success.

Five shots behind going into the third round, Rahm shot 30 on the back nine at the TPC Sawgrass and surged into the lead when McIlroy and Fleetwood couldn't keep pace.

"Maybe, if this had not gone the way I wanted it to, it might have eaten away at me", McIlroy told me.

It wasn't thanks to a swing change or the work he's put in on his putting.

But the player stayed resolutely patient. "It has taken me a few weeks to get to this point but I feel like I am playing some of the best golf of my life right now and I just need to keep doing the same things". Any time I looked at the leaderboard I was pleasantly surprised I hadn't fallen two or three shots behind. "Thankfully it all came together".

There was no visible frustration, only more great golf. He still was under par at the turn by running off three birdies, including a four-iron to a foot on the hardest par three on the course at No 8.

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The Masters is the one major Rory McIlroy has not won, with his best position coming in 2015 when he finished fourth. It was there that he propelled a sensational 180-yard six-iron bunker shot to set up a crucial bounce-back birdie.

"Harry has been a massive part of this and making me more comfortable on the golf course,"McIlroy insisted".

The strength to nail it came from his experience more than a decade ago at the Hong Kong Open.

McIlroy then safely negotiated the water-lined final two holes with tap-in pars to clinch the most prestigious tournament outside the four majors.

"Honestly, I think (the PGA Tour) should be a little tougher".

"Didn't have my swing today like I've had for the first two days, and really struggled with that early on", Fleetwood said.

Mickelson had another 74 and missed the cut at The Players for the sixth time in the last seven years. It was arguably the most gutsy performance of his career.

Given the nature of this golf course - and a forecast for a different wind - the fun might just be starting. Sunday's win was not him at his imperious best, but showed us the dogged side to his character. "I play golf because I love the game and I know that I have a talent for it and I want to make the most of it". He says his attitude has been good all year, and it can be tested severely on the Players Stadium Course.

But the key is the golfer himself and his growing maturity which has impacted on his game. Last month in Mexico, he started eagle-eagle. "I'd let what I shot that day influence who I was or my mood, and to try and keep those two things very separate is something I've worked hard". That group included Brandt Snedeker (65) and Keegan Bradley (68), and Dustin Johnson, the No 1 player in the world who played the par fives at even and still shot a 69. - The island green that never looks smaller than it does on Sunday at The Players proved to be no problem for Rory McIlroy. This victory will inevitably stoke anticipation for his next attempt to complete the career Grand Slam at April's Masters at Augusta. These odds will continue to evolve as we get closer to Augusta.

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