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Rory McIlroy silences doubters at Players Championship

Rory McIlroy savours his Players Championship win.
Rory McIlroy has added a Players Championship to his four major championship titles, taking his total of PGA Tour victories to 15 in addition to his seven stand-alone European Tour wins and Australian Open title.

His record at the age of just 29 not only has him heading for one of the great careers in the history of the game but he is quickly becoming one of the game’s great personalities to match his increasingly impressive playing record.

Today at the TPC Sawgrass, McIlroy fought back from a shaky start, which included a double bogey at the 4th, to win by one over 48-year old Jim Furyk whose round of 67 had him on the verge of becoming the oldest ever player to win the title.

McIlroy’s superb finished edged him clear of Furyk who had finished 40 minutes earlier with a birdie at the 72nd hole to take the outright lead at that point.

It was, though, a day where so many players could well have won the title, as many as 11 having a realistic chance throughout the final round, but it was McIlroy who would be rewarded for a tremendous run of consistency in 2019 by claiming the title and the massive US$2.25 million first prize.

In five events leading into this week, McIlroy had not been outside the top six in any but despite his tremendous start to the season he was under scrutiny by many who saw the glass half empty for McIlroy rather than half full.

‘Why was he not converting such consistency into success’ was the cry from the analysts who instead of acknowledging just what he was achieving were keen to pick his seeming inability to win to pieces.

He answered in the best possible manner and under great pressure with a win that will surely silence the doubters and it appears he has the golfing world at his feet for the remainder of 2019.

His victory moved him to 4th in the world ranking and a return to the top spot may come sooner, rather than later.

Less than a month away comes the one major championship that McIlroy has yet to win, The Masters. But the manner in which he is playing and that he has now recorded five consecutive top tens at Augusta National in his last five visits suggests he will start as the favourite.

Not only will he be the favourite to win The Masters but should he do so then he becomes just the sixth men's player in history to win a professional career Grand Slam.

McIlroy acknowledged that the cumulative effect of the solid start to the year was a key ingredient in his success today.

“I think it was a culmination of all those experiences and I felt more comfortable each time and today I liked the fact it was tough. Even when I started with a double bogey at the 4th I knew there were chances coming up and tried to stay as patient as I possibly could.”

McIlroy was aware of the discussion about his supposed inability to finish events off but was determined not to buy into it.

“I've been disciplined this year in not reading a lot of stuff about myself, so that has helped because I haven't read any of the negativity or anything that -- and obviously I know that it's going to happen because of who I am and what I've done in the past or whatever, but I really have left each tournament happy.”

McIlory’s putting has certainly improved in recent times courtesy of the assistance of one of the best putters of all time, Brad Faxon, but he was keen to acknowledge the support of his whole team rather than just one individual.

“We're singling out Brad because my putting has definitely improved over the 12 months, but everyone on my team, my caddie Harry, my manager Sean, my coach Michael, my wife Erica, everyone plays their part in me getting to this point.

“So I think it's unfair to just single out one person. I want to single out them all because they all have a very big role to play, and I'm very appreciative of their support.”

Furyk only just got into the event following his 9th place finish at the Honda Classic two weeks ago and he took full advantage with his best finish on the PGA Tour since his win at the Heritage four years ago.

Injury issues have been a concern for the veteran but he today showed just what game he still possesses when fit and when in form.

“I mean, to go back to a week ago today, I wasn't even sure if I was going to be in the field, so found out kind of late Sunday that I was definitely in, last guy in the field,” said Furyk.

“I really liked the state of my game, the way I was playing. I played a great event at Honda, and just was excited. I mean, I knew how well I was playing and wanted some opportunities to get out there on the golf course."

Jason Day finished as the leading Australian in a share of 8th place, one shot ahead of Adam Scott who finished in 12th place, both players threatening to get closer throughout the final round.

“Yeah, it was just hard to get any sort of momentum going,” said Day.

“It was nice to be able to come back and birdie the second hole, but to be honest I played the par-fives poorly. I shot even par and they're all gettable, and if I would have birdied all four I would have been tied with Rory, but, unfortunately, I just wasn't good enough today and he was. So I feel motivated going into next week, knowing that my game is in a half decent spot.

“Obviously I'm very happy for Rory; he's played some tremendous golf over the last few months and he's very deserving of it, so it was nice to see that and I'm positive with how things are going."

Cameron Smith was the other Australian to complete the event and finished 56th.

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