Players Championship 2019: Rory McIlroy Wins by 1 Stroke over Jim Furyk

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2019

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, reacts to a missed putt on the 17th hole during the final round of The Players Championship golf tournament Sunday, March 17, 2019, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

The final group of Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood fell apart. Jim Furyk soared.

In the end, though, it was Rory McIlroy taking home the 2019 Players Championship.

McIlroy carded a two-under 70, giving him a one-stroke victory over Furyk to win golf's "fifth major" for the first time. The victory is almost a year to the day since McIlroy's last, the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The former world No. 1 has won 15 times on the PGA Tour.

Entering the day one stroke off the pace set by Rahm, McIlroy struggled to make positive headway on the front. His approach on No. 4 dropped into the water, forcing him to settle for a double bogey.

A brilliant iron on No. 6 gave him a four-foot putt for an easy birdie to get him back to one over for the day, but he gave that shot back immediately on the seventh after missing a six-foot par. A birdie on the par-five ninth got him back to one over as he made the turn, but with guys like Furyk, Eddie Pepperell and Jhonattan Vegas going low, it looked like McIlroy's hopes for the tournament were dashed.

Luckily for McIlroy, there were nine holes to play.

He took full advantage, nailing back-to-back birdies on Nos. 11 and 12 to right his round. While he gave up a stroke on No. 14 after failing to get up and down out of the bunker, McIroy drained a clutch 14-foot birdie on No. 15 and narrowly missed eagle on No. 16 before a tap-in birdie gave him the lead for good.

Furyk will undoubtedly be looking back on his miss on a three-foot gimme on No. 15 that arguably cost him the tournament. The 48-year-old's miss on the tap-in was one of only two blemishes in an otherwise sterling round. Four of his birdies came after approaches that put him within five feet of the cup; none of his makes for red numbers were longer than 10 feet.

Rahm began the day as the leader and wound up finishing in a tie for 12th after an ugly four-over 76. Almost no aspect of his game was on point, and Rahm consistently missed key putts that would have kept him in contention. 

Fleetwood fared a little better than his playing partner with a one-over 73 but could not buy a putt. The PGA's strokes gained metric had Fleetwood losing 1.4 strokes. Had he even been an average putter for the round, Fleetwood would have stayed in contention.  

McIlroy, who gave up his European Tour membership for 2019 to focus intently on the PGA, has been playing some of the best golf of his career. He's finished no worse than sixth in any tournament this year and will go into the 2019 Masters considered a favorite.

McIlroy has never finished better than fourth at Augusta and would complete the career Grand Slam with a victory at the year's first major.

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