PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Rory McIlroy & # 39; sunday ride on TPC Sawgrass was far from relaxed. He stuck most of the final round of the Players Championship in his track in a flat tire and pumped his brakes as players got bigger in his rearview mirror.
Eddie Pepperell, who started six battles behind McIlroy on Sunday, caught him, and so, fleetingly, did Jhonattan Vegas, who also started the round six behind him. Early on, McIlroy, who himself started the day with Jon Rahm, was placed on the standings by Abraham Ancer, who came out of his pace of three. On the play, Jim Furyk, who came back from four, pushed forward.
Unlike last year, when Webb Simpson already squeezed the drama from the finish with a four-branch win, Sunday was a blow … race to the wire, with eight players taking at least part of the lead in hands – including Vegas for 16 seconds – before McIlroy took command.
McIlroy did not panic when he played a double bogey on the fourth hole and made the turn in a one-over-par 37. While everyone around him spun or drove away, McIlroy put together four birdies, against one bogey, on the back nine for a final round two-under 70, good for a one-stroke win.
McIlroy, from Northern Ireland, finished 16-under 272, one ahead of Furyk, who closed with a 67 and two for Pepperell (66) and Vegas (66). Rahm struggled to a 76 and ended in a four-way draw for the 12th out of 11 under.
The victory was McIlroy's 15th on the PGA Tour, and his second in two years on St. Patrick's Day weekend.
"It is not a bad weekend for me," said McIlroy, who lifted up his long-sleeved blue sweater to reveal a green golf shirt with a mischievous grin.
McIlroy showed little emotion after he putted two for par on the last hole to close the tournament in smooth, cloudy and intermittent rainy conditions. His emotions, from design to design, run from start to finish in the first six starts of 2019 from happy to content.
"Of course I wanted the victory today, but it's just another day," McIlroy said. "It's just another step in the journey."
A decade is passed since McIlroy made his first start at Sawgrass the week he turned 20. As he remembered, he missed the cutback that year while "kicking out of bars at Jax Beach because he was a minor. So I have come a long way. "
But his transformation is deeper than that. McIlroy said he had learned not to attach his self-identity to his scores.
" One thing I used to do was that what I did that day killed, let me influence who I was or my mood, "McIlroy said, adding," It's something I've worked hard on, because who I am as a person is not who I am as a golfer. "
That TPC Sawgrass, in his return to March after a 12-year run in May, provided that a fair test was made clear in the settlement on top of the long-awaited 29-year-old McIlroy and the 48-year-old 48-year-old, Furyk.
Furyk, who lives a short distance from the court, was one of the last players to reach the field, and although he fell short in his bid for his first tournament since 2015, he had few complaints, the runner-up finish was his best show in 23 starts in the event.
"I didn't put myself in the heat with a really good chance of win a golf tournament in a while and I missed it, & said Furyk. "I missed the nerves, I missed the excitement."
McIlroy, the world number 6, played in the penultimate link, which was his first major breakthrough. He has failed the last nine times in the final Sunday group in the circle of the winner.
How hard is it to be the hunted Sunday? Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood (73), who played directly behind McIlroy and Jason Day (72), were the only players in the top 15 who were not at least equal.
McIlroy has another start – the world golf match-play event in two weeks – before attempting to complete a Grand Slam career with a win at the Masters for the fifth time.
If he took everything away from Sunday, in addition to the golden trophy, McIlroy said it was a confirmation that he was on the right track.
"I feel like I have led the first six weeks or six tournaments of the year very well, even with some noise around me, whether it is he cannot close, he cannot play on Sunday "Bla, Bla, Bla," said McIlroy. "I just have to do my thing, and when I go and I concentrate, I decide what I can do, play well and take care of the rest."