McIlroy wins The Players Championship

That winning feeling

McIlroy's 16-under 272 was one stroke better than 48-year-old Jim Furyk, who shot a final round 67.

Rahm was at 15-under 201. During the final four holes Sunday, he followed back-to-back birdies with two stress-free pars on the par-3 17th hole island green and the daunting par-4 18th hole. "But that's not true", McIlroy said. I have a lot of respect for him as a person. Some fans wore outfits and hats covered in four-leaf clover patterns. Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood were tied for second. The more mature McIlroy isn't allowing expectations placed on him by others, or negativism, intrude his new outlook on life. He won for the first time in almost a year (the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 18, 2018 was his last) and did it navigating a tricky Sunday course that thinned out a cluster of contenders down the stretch.

"I'm proudest of my attitude and my mentality, not just on Sunday but throughout the year and not letting all those close misses get to me, not letting the noise that built up around me get to me", he said. This is my tournament and I've got to finish it off.

He would be walking away Sunday with plenty of green, too. - Most journeys of self discovery aren't rewarded with a $2.25 million cheque and a gold trophy. Not that he proved inconsistent with a club in his hand; in his last five starts prior to the Players Championship, he managed to finish no worse than sixth.

Meanwhile, former world No. 1 Woods rounded out his week with a three-under 69 which left him six under for the tournament and among a quintet at 30th.

Rahm will be going for his third career win on the PGA Tour on Sunday. He two-putted from just inside 15 feet for a birdie on the 16th, and he had another birdie chance from about that range on the 18th that would have tied the course record.

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. - Regardless of how Rory McIlroy fares in the match-play bracket later this month, there is only one bit of cautionary advice that he should heed as the focus begins to drift north from TPC Sawgrass to Augusta National.

In five events leading into this week, McIlroy had not been outside the top six in any but despite his tremendous start to the season he was under scrutiny by many who saw the glass half empty for McIlroy rather than half full.

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

None would have been as celebrated as Furyk, one of eight players to have at least a share of the lead during the final round. "It's just another step in the journey", he said. "Ultimately left it all out there. Haven't been in that position in awhile". Webb Simpson's final round of 73 was the highest final round by a victor on the PGA Tour a year ago.

McIlroy's superb finished edged him clear of Furyk who had finished 40 minutes earlier with a birdie at the 72nd hole to take the outright lead at that point. After one year, Ancer earned the 2010 Jack Nicklaus Award as the Golf Coaches Association of America junior college player of the year.

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.

Fleetwood was just one-under through nine holes but then cut a swathe through the $12.5m field in completing his inward nine in six-under that included a hat-trick of birdies to end his TPC Sawgrass round.

"It's golf", he said.

If Rahm was in the zone, McIlroy was in damage control mode. 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). "That's all you need to do, make a good swing in here, two good swings at the last, and this thing is yours".

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

Winning the Masters has become his prime goal, and McIlroy can't escape the almost-daily questions he gets, especially in the month beforehand.

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