PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — His greatest swing was adopted by his largest drive, each establishing birdies, and from there Rory McIlroy knew tips on how to end.
Out of the blue staked to a one-shot lead, McIlroy had a 125-yard stroll alongside the water to the 17th gap to face an island that by no means seems smaller than on Sunday on the Gamers Championship, adopted by the hardest gap on the TPC Sawgrass with water down the complete left facet.
Rory McIlroy put a number of near-misses behind him with a win on the Gamers. Maybe meaning he is able to put misses at Augusta behind him subsequent.
Tiger Woods mentioned his final-round 69 on the Gamers Championship has him “proper on observe” as he prepares for the Masters.
“Simply make three extra good swings … and this factor is yours,” McIlroy saved telling himself.
He delivered in a significant approach to win the subsequent smartest thing to a significant.
McIlroy made two late birdies to regain the lead, was at his greatest when the strain was the very best, and closed with a 2-under 70 for a one-shot victory over Jim Furyk in his 10th look on the Gamers Championship.
“To step up and make these three good swings, it’s extremely satisfying realizing that it is in there when it must be,” McIlroy mentioned.
McIlroy couldn’t afford a mistake over the ultimate hour due to Furyk, the 48-year-old former Ryder Cup captain who practically pulled off a stunner. Furyk, one of many final gamers to qualify for the strongest area in golf, capped off a 67 with a 7-iron into the 18th so good that he began strolling when he hit it. The ball plopped down Three ft from the outlet for a birdie to take the lead.
However not for lengthy.
Coming off a careless bogey on the 14th, McIlroy thought he was in bother when his tee shot went effectively to the suitable towards a clump of native grass. He was fortunate it got here down into the bunker, and from there he drilled a 6-iron from 180 yards.
“Some golf shot there,” Harry Diamond, his caddie and greatest buddy, mentioned because the ball was within the air.
McIlroy known as it “the perfect shot of the day, by far,” and it settled 15 ft behind the outlet for a birdie to tie. Then, he blasted a 347-yard drive — the longest of the day on the par-5 16th — into a very good lie within the tough that left him a 9-iron to 20 ft for a two-putt birdie and the lead.
Most vital, he discovered dry land on the 17th with a 9-iron, and relied on a reminiscence from 10 years in the past in Hong Kong — decide a goal and swing exhausting — to hammer a tee shot down the 18th fairway to arrange the win.
He completed at 16-under 272 and earned $2.25 million, so far the largest winner’s test in golf.
The timing was excellent. McIlroy had not completed worse than a tie for sixth in his 5 earlier begins this yr — three of them enjoying within the ultimate group — with no trophy to point out for it. And in a single month is the Masters, the ultimate piece for McIlroy to get the profession Grand Slam.
Great way for @McIlroyRory to go into main championshp season & with @TheMasters simply weeks away. He was aggressive when he wanted to be, disciplined & affected person when he wanted to be. Actually like what I noticed!@THEPLAYERSChamp@PGATOUR
— Jack Nicklaus (@jacknicklaus) March 17, 2019
It wasn’t straightforward. Eight gamers had a minimum of a share of the lead in some unspecified time in the future, and a dozen gamers had been separated by two photographs at numerous occasions.
“I believe the hardest half is seeing your self up there, no matter rating you are on, and seeing 10 or 11 guys with an opportunity,” McIlroy mentioned. “I suppose that was the toughest factor was simply getting your self to the purpose mentally the place you say, ‘Properly, why not me? That is my event. I will end it off.'”
Furyk did not know he was within the Gamers till one week in the past, and he was on the verge of profitable till McIlroy got here via in the long run. Furyk began the again 9 with two birdies to get within the combine and completed sturdy. His solely remorse was a Three-foot par putt on the 15th.
Even so, it confirmed he has loads of recreation left after devoting two years as Ryder Cup captain. The runner-up end strikes him excessive sufficient on this planet rating (No. 57) to qualify for the Match Play in two weeks.
“A shot right here, a shot there, possibly may have been a bit of totally different,” Furyk mentioned. “However in the end, left all of it on the market. It was additionally good to get in rivalry, to get below the warmth, to should hit photographs below numerous strain, after which to reply effectively to that and hit some good golf photographs. It’s going to be a confidence increase going ahead.
Rory McIlroy wanted two late birdies Sunday to win The Gamers Championship. Richard Heathcote/Getty Photographs
Among the most entertaining moments got here from everybody else.
Eddie Pepperell of England, in his Sawgrass debut, ran off 4 birdies in a five-hole stretch to briefly share the lead, none larger than a putt from simply inside 50 ft on the 17th. One group later, Jhonattan Vegas holed a putt from the underside left to the highest proper pin place, just below 70 ft, the longest putt made on the island inexperienced for the reason that PGA Tour had lasers to measure them. That gave him a share of the lead, too.
“Magic,” Vegas mentioned. “If I attempted it a thousand occasions I would not even come shut to creating it.”
Each shot 66 and tied for third.
Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood misplaced their method early, after which late.
Rahm, who had a one-shot lead, began with three bogeys in 4 holes and recovered till a curious resolution. Tied for the lead, he was 220 yards away in a bunker, partially blocked by bushes on the par-5 11, when he went for the inexperienced and hit into the water, making bogey. He was nonetheless within the recreation till failing to birdie the 16th and hitting into the water on the 17th. Rahm shot 76.
Fleetwood opened with a three-putt bogey and made all pars till hitting into the water on the 11th for bogey. He made eagle on the 16th to have a fleeting likelihood till developing wanting the island. He shot 73 and tied for fifth with Brandt Snedeker (69) and Dustin Johnson (69).