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Rory McIlroy Erases Slow Start to Win Players Championship 2019 at 16 Under

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMarch 17, 2019

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 17: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his second shot on the sixth hole during the final round of The PLAYERS Championship on The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on March 17, 2019 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy capped off an excellent weekend of golf by winning the 2019 Players Championship with a score of 16 under par.

The final round began with McIlroy tied with Tommy Fleetwood for second place. He overcame a slow start Sunday with four birdies on the back nine, including two straight on Nos. 15 and 16 that moved him into sole possession of the lead.

After reaching the 18th green in two shots, McIlroy played it safe by two-putting for par to seal the win and his first PGA Tour title since last year's Arnold Palmer Invitational.

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

A winner has been crowned @THEPLAYERSChamp! @McIlroyRory claims a huge victory @TPCSawgrass. πŸ† #LiveUnderPar https://t.co/4qXtWjxlfL

McIlroy's day started with three straight pars before a gaffe on No. 4 that seemed costly when it first happened. He took a double bogey after hitting his tee shot into the rough and his second shot went into the water on the left side of the green.

As bad as things went on that hole, McIlroy was still just one shot off the lead. Tommy Fleetwood, who entered the day tied with the Irishman for the top spot, gave a stroke back by bogeying his first hole.

McIlroy got one of those shots back with his first birdie of the day on No. 6. He set it up with this fantastic approach shot that stopped four feet away from the hole:

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

Not going away. @McIlroyRory with a beautiful shot. He's tied for the lead @THEPLAYERSChamp. #QuickHits https://t.co/ruqTo7Xq90

Before completely turning things around, McIlroy followed his birdie with a bogey after leaving an eight-foot putt short of the cup.

The ninth hole is when McIlroy really started to settle in, starting with a 299-yard drive that landed in the middle of the fairway to set him up for a birdie before making the turn.

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

Stop and stare. On repeat. πŸ”‚ https://t.co/TnXD7inXcr

His driver would again play a critical role in taking sole possession of the lead for the final time on No. 16. He parlayed this shot into a birdie that dropped him to 16-under:

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

Obliterated. @McIlroyRory just hit the longest drive of the day on 16. 347 yards. https://t.co/j3J8jFSnD1

McIlroy has been building toward this moment all season. The 29-year-old has finished in the top six in each of his past six tournaments, with three final-round scores under 70 during that span.

Justin Ray @JustinRayGolf

Last 6 @PGATOUR starts for @McIlroyRory - 80-under 68.5 scoring average Gained 55.5 strokes on the field tee-to-green (+2.31 per round)

The victory includes not only a $2.25 million purse for McIlroy but also a jump in the official world golf rankings to No. 4 and the top spot in the FedEx Cup standings:

Rex Hoggard @RexHoggardGC

Rory McIlroy moves to fourth in the world. https://t.co/pYzkrsGtw3

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

Former #FedExCup champion. Current #FedExCup leader. Updated standings: 1. @McIlroyRory πŸ†β¬† 2. @XSchauffele 3. Matt Kuchar 4. Charles Howell III 5. @GaryWoodland 6. @JustinThomas34 7. @MarcLeish 8. @RickieFowler 9. @DJohnsonPGA 10. @BKoepka https://t.co/aHLARi8Mom

Winning The Players Championship certainly raises the always-high expectations for McIlroy moving forward. He will likely be favored to win the Masters next month, but no player has ever won both tournaments in the same season.

The Masters has also been McIlroy's kryptonite. It remains the only major title he's never won. His best finish at Augusta was fourth in 2015, though he's finished in the top 10 each of the previous three years.

Based on the final results from TPC Sawgrass, McIlroy looks poised to end his career-long drought at the biggest tournament of the year.

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