The PLAYERS Championship: Rory McIlroy claims one-shot victory in 'fifth major' at TPC Sawgrass

Rory McIlroy wins The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass
Rory McIlroy wins The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass

Rory McIlroy survived a few ups and downs in a thrilling Sunday at TPC Sawgrass to emerge with a one-shot win at The PLAYERS Championship.

Leaderboard

-16 Rory McIlroy

-15 Jim Furyk

-14 Eddie Pepperell, Jhonattan Vegas

-13 Dustin Johnson, Brandt Snedeker, Tommy Fleetwood

Day four report

Rory McIlroy held his nerve down the demanding closing stretch at TPC Sawgrass to claim The PLAYERS Championship title with a one-shot victory over veteran American Jim Furyk on a stunning end to Sunday's final round.

McIlroy celebrated St Patrick's Day in style with victory in the prestigious event as he recovered from an early double bogey to card a closing 70 and finish 16-under-par, one shot ahead of former Ryder Cup captain Furyk, who had threatened to become the oldest winner in tournament history.

Furyk set the clubhouse target after a 67 that included two birdies in the last three holes, the 48-year-old - who is less than a month older than 2005 champion Fred Funk - hitting a brilliant approach to just three feet at the last.

However, McIlroy bounced back from a bogey on the 14th with birdies at the next two holes to move back into the lead and safely negotiated the treacherous 17th and 18th to secure a 15th PGA Tour title after starting the season with five consecutive top-six finishes.

On his tournament debut, England's Eddie Pepperell shared third place with Venezuela's Jhonattan Vegas on 14 under, both players holing improbable birdie putts on the 17th in matching rounds of 66.

England's Tommy Fleetwood, who began the day in joint second with McIlroy, gave himself an outside chance of forcing a play-off with his Ryder Cup team-mate with an eagle on the 16th, only to promptly hit his tee shot on the 17th into the water.

Day three report

Jon Rahm fired a spectacular round of 64 to move past Rory McIlroy and into the lead with 18 holes remaining at the PLAYERS Championship.

The Spaniard was five shots off the lead at halfway but wiped out that deficit in style, an approach to three feet at the par-five 11th setting up a tap-in eagle and sending him into the lead.

Further birdies at the 13th, 16th and 17th, the latter courtesy of an outstanding wedge to inside five feet, saw Rahm move to 15-under and earn a place in the final group.

McIlroy got off to a poor start with bogeys at the first two holes, but rallied well to get back under-par for the day, a round of 70 enough to keep him within a shot of his Ryder Cup team-mate.

"To turn under par was a good effort after two early bogeys," the four-time major winner told American broadcaster NBC Sports.

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

Alongside him, Tommy Fleetwood showed his battling qualities with a round of 70 which began with a double-bogey but ended with birdies at the 16th and 17th before a par save at the last.

Former PLAYERS winner Jason Day is stalking the leaders at 13-under and with bad weather forecast for Sunday, Rahm knows he has work to do if he's to secure the biggest title of his career.

"I enjoy it a lot," he said of the switch from May to March. "It definitely suits my playing style a little bit better.

Of the plan for Sunday, he added: "One shot at a time. Birdies are out there, we’re expecting a little bit of weather. Just stay patient. You never know what’s going to happen.

"Tomorrow, I know there’s going to be somebody who posts a score. I know I’m going to have to go and shoot a good number to win this tournament."

Day two report

Rory McIlroy joined Tommy Fleetwood at the top of the leaderboard after the second round of the Players Championship at Sawgrass.

Fleetwood built on his 65 in the opening round by picking up four shots in the first three holes, including an eagle at the second, and, although he could not maintain that pace, a birdie at the 18th gave him a round of 67 to move to 12 under par.

That looked like being good enough for the outright lead until McIlroy surged through late on. The four-time major winner birdied the eighth, ninth, 10th and 12th and then finished in style with an eagle on the 16th and a birdie on the 17th to sign for a 65.

Both players have been in good form without translating that into victories. McIlroy has finished in the top six at each of his last six events while Fleetwood led last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational before eventually finishing tied for third.

He said: "(I need to) just keep doing the same things. It didn't happen for me last week but I did so many good things and it's been nice to be playing with confidence.

"I felt really comfortable today and I enjoyed it. (I'll try to) keep that focus and commit. Two rounds is a long, long time but I've put myself in a good position."

McIlroy is looking forward to a weekend battle with his Ryder Cup team-mate, saying: "I'm excited. Tommy played great last week. I obviously had my chances as well. This is the great thing about golf, you can get straight back on the horse. I'm looking forward to tomorrow."

Fleetwood and McIlroy hold a three-shot lead over a quartet of players - England's Ian Poulter, Americans Jim Furyk and Brian Harman and Mexico's Abraham Ancer.

Furyk had the best round of the day, the 48-year-old former Ryder Cup captain carding eight birdies in a flawless 64.

Tiger Woods admitted he was "ticked off" after seeing his hopes of winning a third Players Championship title suffer a potentially fatal blow on the famous 17th hole.

Woods began the second round five shots off the lead but had moved ominously up the leaderboard with birdies on the 12th, 13th and 16th, having started from the 10th tee.

However, the former world number one then dumped two balls into the water on the par-three 17th on his way to a damaging quadruple-bogey seven.

Woods had narrowly avoided the water on the 13th and 16th and made birdie on both occasions, but his luck ran out on the 17th when his tee shot pitched on the green but just trickled off the back edge.

The 43-year-old opted to play his next shot from the drop zone but a pulled approach took one bounce before plunging into the water and after finally finding the green, Woods two-putted from 20 feet.

"The second wedge didn't really surprise me, it was too flat. The first one I hit surprised me," Woods told reporters. "I was pretty ticked. I was determined to get it all back.

"Other than 17 I really haven't done a whole lot wrong. Anyone who makes the cut has a chance."

Woods regrouped to play his remaining 10 holes in two under par and return a 71, but on three under par he is nine shots adrift of the lead.

Day one report

Tommy Fleetwood fired an excellent first-round 65 to post seven-under to share the first round lead at the PLAYERS Championship alongside Keegan Bradley.

Perhaps inspired by the victory of his good friend Francesco Molinari last week, Fleetwood stormed home in 30 shots after a quiet outward nine - largely thanks to an exceptional display of ball-striking.

He'd made just one birdie over his first nine holes, having started at the 10th, but six from the first saw him post a target which may not be passed.

Bradley was the only man who could match Fleetwood's efforts, as he hit two birdies and an eagle on Sawgrass' punishing closing four holes, when starting on the back nine, on his way to joining the Englishman on seven-under.

Byeong Hun An and Brian Harman carded rounds of 66 to sit one back, the former striking the ball superbly and the latter holing putt after putt.

Rory McIlroy had the chance to join them after reaching five-under with only the par-five ninth to play, but a par there saw him shoot 67 on a low-scoring day at Sawgrass.

World number one Dustin Johnson bogeyed the same hole in a frustrating round of 69, while Justin Thomas made a costly error at the sixth in a round of 71 to lie six shots off the early pace.

It was an eventful back nine for Tiger Woods who, after reaching the turn level, carded just one par with five birdies and three bogeys to finish the day on two-under, alongside the likes of Jason Day and Adam Scott.

Ian Poulter had a solid first round as he shot 69 to sit on three-under, and he's joined by John Rahm, Sergio Garcia and Matt Wallace.

Spare a thought for Anirban Lahiri, who was the only player left on the course when play was suspended due to darkness, when all he had to do was putt out on the 18th green.

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