McIlroy emerges from wild day to win Players Championship

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He has been close as of late in the Masters, finishing 10th a year ago, fourth in 2016 and sixth in 2015. "I hit some better shots coming in, but it was just a real test of grit and mental strength more than anything".

Jon Rahm felt like every shot would be good and majority were on Sunday (NZ time) as he posted an eight-under 64 and built a one-shot lead over Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood in The Players Championship.

He knew that he had been second or tied for second heading to the final day on seven occasions since 2018 and never won.

But the County Down golfer believes a new sense of perspective can help him do precisely that after ending his run of near-misses with a thrilling victory in the Players Championship.

There were too many to single out for the 24-year-old Spaniard, who was at 15-under 201. The 34-year-old has two wins this season.

So with McIlroy approaching his 30th birthday, and with only one victory over his previous 50 tournaments worldwide, the critics took notice. With his massive talent, he should have won more than four Major Titles by now.

There were more recent days, he admitted, where his mood hung on the scorecard total: shooting a 65 would make him happy, while a 75 would make him sad. The golf betting odds are still good enough to take a chance on McIlroy.

"At that point, I didn't know what to expect". I was just excited about the fact that I was healthy, and I wanted to see what I could do.

"I'll just keep doing the same thing", said McIlroy.

That path will lead down Magnolia Lane in less than a month, a rocky road fraught with obstacles for McIlroy in years past.

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"Once I got back to level par I felt like I had settled in to the round".

That was the first of four unsuccessful attempts to round out the elusive final leg of the career Grand Slam.

This could all change if the majors decide to up their prize money, but The Players has consistently been one of the highest-paying tournaments on the PGA Tour.

At the end of a pulsating final round that was so many things, all of them good or great, Rory McIlroy emerged as the Players champion for 2019. I had to show a lot of character out there. "It was going to happen". Adam Scott is the only other player in the field to have won in March (2004), while 22 other players in the field have at least played in March.

Rory McIlroy did not need the luck of the Irish to walk away a victor at The Players Championship.

When he is in his pomp no one plays a better brand of golf.

Until Sunday, the narrative surrounding McIlroy for months had focused on him putting himself in position to win by getting into the Sunday final pairing yet failing to win.

During the summer of his golfing life, in 2014, Rory McIlroy was famously booze-free; the abstinence bringing two majors and a World Golf Championships title as he rose to world number one.

There was no visible frustration, only more great golf. McIlroy called the shot easily his best of the day. "I feel like I've managed the first six weeks or six tournaments of the year very well, even with some noise around me, whether it is, "He can't close, he can't plays on Sundays" blah, blah, blah". It was also nice to get in contention, to get under the heat, to have to hit shots under a lot of pressure, and then to respond well to that and hit some good golf shots.

It means that regardless of how he fares in his remaining start, and regardless of who wins in Tampa or Austin, we'll be talking about McIlroy as the rightful favorite when the calendar flips to April and the azaleas begin to bloom.