Published: Wed, March 20, 2019
Sports | By Brett Lawson

Sunday hoodoo is over as Rory McIlroy rules Players Championship at Sawgrass

Sunday hoodoo is over as Rory McIlroy rules Players Championship at Sawgrass

Tiger Woods, who returns after a week off to heal a minor neck issue, is the only player to have won The Players in March (2001) and May (2013).

"He knows my swing just as good as I do, so it's nice to have an extra pair of eyes there if I ever need it". McIlroy hopes his first win in 12 months is a sign of things to come.

RORY McILROY celebrated St Patrick's Day with his first victory for more than a year in a thrilling climax to the Players Championship at Sawgrass yesterday.

"I nearly liked today because it was tough", McIlroy said. "I came on Tour and all I wanted to do was keep my card, and from there, you grow and you learn and you become a better player, and you realize that there's a lot more that you can achieve". The ball plopped down 3 feet from the hole for a birdie to take the lead. That week, he had a chance to win but was uncomfortable with the tee shot on 18, before committing completely to his trademark free-swinging, full release philosophy. Harry has been a big part of the success.

A bogey on the 14th had dropped McIlroy adrift of the lead, but he fought back with birdies on the 15th and 16th to regain a one-shot lead with two to play.

Slow play has become one of the PGA Tour's most talked-about issues, which came to a head at the recent Genesis Open in Los Angeles when victor JB Holmes was lambasted by commentators for his slow final round. This moved Rahm to 2 over for the round.

The timing was ideal.

Jason Day finished as the leading Australian in a share of 8th place, one shot ahead of Adam Scott who finished in 12th place, both players threatening to get closer throughout the final round.

"I've got a week off".

"It's not a bad weekend for me, " said McIlroy, who is from Northern Ireland. I just stayed as patient as I possibly could. This is my tournament. "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". I played a great event at Honda, and just was excited.

Lahiri decided against tapping in a three-foot par putt on the 18th due to darkness and came back on Friday to make it.

Even so, it showed he has plenty of game left after devoting two years as Ryder Cup captain.

Rory with the trophy he won at Sawgrass
Rory with the trophy he won at Sawgrass

"I think the golf gods will reward you for making a good committed swing", he said.

"A shot here, a shot there, maybe could have been a little different", Furyk said. "Ultimately left it all out there".

It was important not to get down on himself if he didn't win, even if everyone expected him to at Wentworth past year and Dubai two months ago. It will give me massive confidence going forward.

When he is in his pomp no one plays a better brand of golf.

Perhaps most importantly, the recent history of trying but failing in golf tournaments across the world proved to be a product of patience rather than panic, as McIlroy notched a big victory on Sunday. He also finished with a career-best 57 rounds of par or better for the Sooners. He responded with birdies on 15 and 16 and had a one-stroke lead heading to the par three 17th.

Great stats are not going to help McIlroy overcome the demons of Augusta National's back-nine, but after winning at TPC Sawgrass for the first time he is playing at a level that could earn him a fifth career major and the tournament that he covets above all others.

The one bogey he made stood out for two reasons.

At day's end, the temperamental 24-year-old was pleased he kept his emotions in check as his round came unraveled during some hard moments.

Meanwhile, Spain's Jon Rahm, a 54-hole leader for the first time on the PGA Tour, will have to regroup after a final-round collapse.

Rahm, who had a one-shot lead, started with three bogeys in four holes. Tied for the lead, he was in a bunker, 220 yards away, partially blocked by trees on the par-5 11th when he made a decision to go for the green. Then it was a matter of navigating two treacherous tee shots with water lurking at the 17th and 18th holes.

Fleetwood missed a 30-inch putt on the opening hole and took double bogey, and he fell three shots behind through seven holes. He made eagle on the 16th to have a fleeting chance until coming up short of the island.

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