Rory McIlroy at 18 today en route to a one-shot victory. Image: Getty
Rory McIlroy broke a series of near-accidents with a brilliant victory in the Players Championship at Sawgrass.
On a remarkable closing day in Florida, where half a dozen players had a chance to win, Australians Jason Day (tie-eighth) and Adam Scott (tie with 12) fell just outside the pace.
Day chased hard until the par-fifth 16th, where he needed eagle, but he drank from an uncomfortable lie, hanging over the water, and finally with his little bird from just over a meter.
48-year-old American veteran Jim Furyk came in second, the Ryder Cup captain showed a memorable finish when he strengthened his iron strike on the par-four 18th hole and placed 15-substandard par for a one-shot lead
Furyk (67 today) went to the clubhouse and waited but soon enough, McIlroy slammed it close to the par-four 15th hole and made a birdie to tie him in, and then with a monster ride and a beautiful nine-iron second shot to the par -Five 16th, he two-putted for the birdie that put him in the direct line.
Of course it wasn't over by that time. The Northern Irishman had to negotiate the water on the par-three 17 and the par-four 18, but he was almost flawless in initialing from there. At 17, he beat it to 10 feet and almost hole in the birdie; at the age of 18 he made his way across the fairway and almost hit the flag with his eightfold iron approach when a safer line would have been to the right of the flag.
Two putts later he had his first Players title. McIlroy had expressed doubts about his ability to end this season with a series of top five games: the fourth, the fifth, the fourth, the second and the sixth, but then he said the disappointments had driven him forward .
"Good chance in Hawaii, good chance in LA, good chance in Mexico, last week (Bay Hill). I think it's just a combination of those experiences," he said. me becoming more comfortable. I almost loved it today because it's hard. I knew that the (leading) boys would not get away from us. & # 39; & # 39;
McIlroy didn't even have to do his best. He doubled the fourth hole after finding water, after starting a shot back, but the players around him, including Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood, who had played the latter, went backwards under pressure. Rahm (76 today) and Fleetwood (73) both provided background lighting, although Fleetwood rode on the 16th to give himself a chance. Towards the flag on the par-three 17th, he found the water and his chances passed.
It made life a bit easier for McIlroy, who nevertheless closed the last nine and four birdies. "Every time I looked at the scoreboard, I was pleasantly surprised that I hadn't dropped two or three shots," he said. "That gave me some encouragement and I played a great ninth time. & # 39; & # 39;
Day shot an even 72 in the day without ever really trying, while Scott was on the road early before hitting two water balls on the back nine, crooked at two par-five. It was a difficult day for most other than Furyk, Eddie Pepperell (66) and Jonny Vegas (66), the latter with a 25-meter birdie putt on the 17th.
"There is so much at stake," McIlroy said. "I am just thankful that it was my turn this week. I felt that if I stayed patient, things would work for me and I am glad they did. & # 39; & # 39;