PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The island inexperienced that by no means seems smaller than it does on Sunday on the Gamers Championship proved to be no drawback for Rory McIlroy. Similar with the daunting tee shot on the 18th gap, the slew of gamers in rivalry and the windy circumstances.
Maybe most significantly, the current historical past of attempting however failing in golf tournaments internationally proved to be a product of persistence moderately than panic, as McIlroy notched an enormous victory on Sunday.
Beginning the ultimate spherical one shot again of chief Jon Rahm and overcoming an early double-bogey, McIlroy performed his final 10 holes in four below par on a uncooked day at TPC Sawgrass to assert his most vital win for the reason that 2014 PGA Championship.
It was his first victory in a yr, since he received the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which additionally occurred to be on St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
“It isn’t a foul weekend for me,” mentioned McIlroy, who’s from Northern Eire.
Rory McIlroy rides two late birdies to carry off Jim Furyk on Sunday and win the Gamers Championship.
Tiger Woods mentioned his final-round 69 on the Gamers Championship has him “proper on observe” as he prepares for the Masters.
One unhealthy gap just about submarined Tiger’s whole week at The Gamers — a 7 on the par three 17th on Friday. We observe his week at The Gamers, and all his actions of 2019.
“It is very good to get a win,” he mentioned. “Particularly doing it on this golf course, which performed just like the best way Augusta will play. I am enjoying a number of the finest golf of my life.”
Ah, Augusta. It was good of Rory to carry up the house of the Masters and the primary main championship of the yr, the place subsequent month he will likely be among the many favorites to not solely win the event but additionally full the profession Grand Slam.
Such speak was inevitable, given McIlroy’s stature within the sport and his run of excessive finishes in 2019, none of which has been worse than sixth. The nagging challenge of enjoying in 9 straight closing teams with no win nonetheless persists — he was within the second-to-last group Sunday — however hardly issues now.
“I feel all of the experiences I’ve had over the previous couple of weeks, by way of attempting to win and never getting over the road, undoubtedly helped me [Sunday in the final round],” he mentioned. “Possibly if I hadn’t have had these experiences, I would not be sitting up right here with this trophy, so I am grateful and grateful for these experiences I’ve had this yr. Sure, it might have been good to perhaps get one other win, but it surely type of made all of it value it, the truth that this win has come at this golf event, a event the place Sawgrass and I did not have the best relationship beginning off.”
McIlroy missed the lower in his first three appearances. In 2011, he skipped the event altogether — a choice he later mentioned he regretted — earlier than posting three top-10s the previous 5 years.
But it surely was the run of near-success early this yr that had many questioning if McIlroy had misplaced the closing spurt that introduced him a lot success early in his profession. Though none of his closing rounds was horrible — he shot 72 every week in the past within the closing spherical at Bay Hill — he was developing quick.
Congrats to @McIlroyRory on an ideal win… silenced lots of people at this time! Method to play bro 👊🏽
— Justin Thomas (@JustinThomas34) March 17, 2019
“I actually have left every event pleased,” McIlroy mentioned. “While you replicate on the week, you need to replicate on the 72 holes and never simply the final two holes you performed, and each time I mirrored on the 72 I’ve performed, I have been fairly pleased. I’ve completed all the pieces I’ve wished to do.
“I checked out my stats on the finish of each week. I am main strokes gained tee to inexperienced, I am placing properly, my across the greens is sweet. Every little thing was in a extremely good place, and that is why I used to be simply preaching persistence, and it was only a matter of time.”
In fact, McIlroy cannot management what different gamers do, and he had the likes of Xander Schauffele (Sentry Match of Champions), Dustin Johnson (WGC-Mexico) and Francesco Molinari (Arnold Palmer Invitational) placing up good final-day scores.
On Sunday, he needed to deal with a flurry of opponents. Jim Furyk, 48, who solely acquired into the sphere final Sunday, fired a final-round 67 that included a kick-in birdie on the 18th.
Each Eddie Pepperell and Jonathan Vegas made monster putts — Vegas’ was measured at 70 ft, the longest ever recorded — on the 17th gap to spice up their possibilities. Johnson, Brandt Snedeker, Tommy Fleetwood and Rahm had been all within the combine sooner or later.
However McIlroy bounced again from a bogey on the 14th to birdie the 15th. A 347-yard drive on the par-5 16th helped arrange a two-putt birdie that gave him the lead for good. Then it was a matter of navigating two treacherous tee pictures with water lurking on the 17th and 18th holes.
“The 18th was in all probability essentially the most troublesome shot I had all day, figuring out I had four to win,” mentioned McIlroy, who pumped it 288 yards into the green.
That arrange a two-putt par and his 15th PGA Tour victory, making him simply the third participant, together with Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, to have a minimal of 15 wins, together with 4 main titles earlier than the age of 30.
McIlroy has stayed true to himself these previous a number of months as victories eluded him. He chuckled on the journey, not simply by way of his life and his sport but additionally since he performed his first Gamers Championship.
“I got here right here as a 19-year-old in 2009, lacking the lower and getting kicked out of bars on Jax Seashore as a result of I used to be underage,” he mentioned. “I’ve come a great distance in these 10 years.”
Sunday’s victory may very properly propel him a great distance as he embarks on the following stage of his profession.