The Players Championship

The Players Championship

The Players Championship
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Winner: Rory McIlroy

Returning to March after 12 years in May, The Players Championship proved to be as iffy as a tournament can get. This iffy: In the final round, eight players either led or had at least a share of the lead. “With so much on the line,” said Rory McIlroy, “I’m thankful it was my turn this week.” His turn? Actually, McIlroy made it his turn with a desperate dash to the finish line. He shook off a crippling two-putt bogey from eight feet at the 14th, birdied 15 and 16, and found his way home for a one-stroke victory over Jim Furyk, at age 48 the unlikeliest of the challengers. Furyk, one of the last to get into the field, started the final round five shots off the lead, four behind McIlroy and 40 minutes ahead of him. Furyk eagled No. 2, keying a five-under stretch, then from the 15th finished bogey-birdie-par-birdie for a 67 and a 273, 15 under at the tough Stadium Course.

McIlroy’s two principal obstacles eased themselves out of the picture. Jon Rahm, the third-round leader, finished with a 76, and Tommy Fleetwood, tied for second with McIlroy going into the final round, shot 73. Then there were England’s Eddie Pepperell and Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas, playing about an hour ahead of McIlroy, both breathtaking conquerors of the heartstopping little par-three 17th. Pepperell carved out seven birdies, Vegas six, the last for each at the 17th — Pepperrell from 50 feet, Vegas from 70. Both shot 66–274, 14 under, and shared the lead briefly, then tied for third.

Furyk, after an eagle from 10 feet at the par-five second, polished off his round with a stunning approach to three feet at the 18th for his fifth birdie and the lead at 15 under. “I feel like — a shot here, a shot there maybe could have been a little different,” Furyk said. “But ultimately, left it all out there.”

McIlroy had a rocky start. He double-bogeyed No. 4 out of rough and water, birdied No. 6 from four feet, but at the seventh, missed the green and bogeyed. He righted himself with three birdies in four holes from the ninth. Then came the crucial stretch. First, he bogeyed the 14th out of a greenside bunker and lost the lead, and next came to the hole of the tournament, the par-four 15th. He was bunkered off the tee, and from 177 yards put a brilliant six-iron approach to 14 feet. He birdied and was 15 under.

At the par-five 16th, a 345-yard drive, 174-yard nine iron from a good lie in the rough and two putts from 19 feet gave him a birdie and put him 16 under. He slipped the snares of the island 17th again, parring with two putts from 32 feet, and parred the par-four 18th, two-putting from 15 feet for the one-stroke win. He shot 67-65-70-70, a 16-under 272 to win The Players for the first time on his 10th try.

“I almost liked today,” McIlroy said, “because it was tough. I knew the guys weren’t going to get away from us. And I’m just really proud of myself, the way I played the last few holes.”

It was McIlroy’s 15th tour win but first in a year. He had answered his critics, someone in the media noted. “I don’t play golf to answer,” McIlroy said. “I play golf for myself.”


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