Rory McIlroy made two late birdies amid the wild theatrics of Sunday at The Players Championship and closed with a 2-under 70 to win the next best thing to a major.
It required a major performance down the scary stretch at the TPC Sawgrass.
McIlroy could not afford to make a mistake over the final hour because of Jim Furyk, the 48-year-old former Ryder Cup captain who nearly pulled off a stunner. Furyk, one of the last players to get in the strongest field in golf, capped off a 67 with a shot so good into the 18th that he started walking when he hit it. It plopped down 3 feet from the hole for a birdie to take the lead.
McIlroy, one of eight players to have at least a share of the lead in the final round, was coming off a bogey on the 14th to fall behind and was in trouble with a tee shot that found a bunker right of the fairway. He responded with his best shot of the day to 15 feet for birdie.
Then, McIlroy hit the longest drive of the round on the par-5 16th, leaving him a 9-iron from a good lie in the rough to set up a two-shot birdie and the lead. Most important, he found dry land on the par-3 17th, the island green that never looks smaller than on Sunday at The Players. He was solid to the end on a chilly, cloudy day and finished at 16-under 272 to win The Players on his 10th try.
It might even set up the 29-year-old from Northern Ireland for the Masters next month, the only major he lacks for the career Grand Slam.
“This is probably the deepest field of the year, with so much on the line,” McIlroy said. “I’m thankful it was my turn this week.”
Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood lost their way early, and then late.
Rahm, who had a one-shot lead, started with three bogeys in four holes. He was still in the game until he failed to birdie the 16th, and then put his tee shot in the water on the 17th. He closed with a 76 and tied for 12th.
Fleetwood opened with a three-putt bogey and made all pars until hitting into the water on the 11th for bogey. He made eagle on the 16th to have a fleeting chance until coming up short of the island. He shot 73 and tied for fifth.
McIlroy emerged as the winner, his 15th on the PGA Tour and 23rd in his career worldwide. He earned $2.25 million and moved to the top of the FedEx Cup standings.
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Italy’s Guido Migliozzi won the Kenya Open for his first European Tour title.
Making his 14th tour start, the 22-year-old Migliozzi closed with a 2-under 69 for a one-stroke victory over Spain’s Adri Arnaus (70) and South Africans Louis De Jager (69) and Justin Harding (66).
“I just kept patient toward the end, that was it. I enjoyed the last two days very much,” Migliozzi said. “The pressure was a lot and I’m happy about how I’m playing under pressure.”
Migliozzi finished at 16-under 268. He opened with rounds of 67, 68 and 64.
Malaysia’s Kelly Tan won the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic in Winter Haven, Florida, for her first Symetra Tour title, beating Demi Runas with a birdie on the first hole of a playoff. Tan eagled the par-5 18th for a 2-under 70 to match Runas (68) at 13-under 203. … Diksha Dagar chipped in for birdie on the 16th hole and closed with a 3-under 69 to win the Investec South African Women’s Open by one shot over Lee Anne Pace. It was Dagar’s first Ladies European Tour victory in just her fourth professional start. … Ai Suzuki shot a 4-under 68 for a four-shot victory in the Yokohama Tire Golf Tournament PRGR Ladies Cup on the Japan LPGA.