This article is part of our Weekly Recap series.
A cynic, or even a smartass, might say that the key to Rory McIlroy winning a tournament for the first time in a year was not being in the final group on Sunday. (Who knows, there might be something to that.)
But regardless, McIlroy did something differently at TPC Sawgrass, something he hadn't altogether done recently. And no, cynic/smartass, we're not talking about winning. We're talking about holding it together.
McIlroy played smart shot after smart shot and parlayed four back-nine birdies opposite just one bogey to capture THE PLAYERS Championship by one stroke over a gallant 48-year-old Jim Furyk. Not only did he encounter unusually cold and windy conditions in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., he emerged from a pack of 16 other guys within four shots of the lead early in the final round – four of them in the top-10 in the world.
This was one, gritty, hard-fought win. And it was a long time coming.
It was McIlroy's first win since Bay Hill last March and only his second anywhere in the world since the 2016 Tour Championship, a span of two and a half years. Really, it was his biggest win in five years, since the 2014 PGA Championship. Of course, McIlroy had done everything but win in the early going of 2019, finishing in the top six in five straight events. Seven times since that Bay Hill win, he had played in the final group on Sunday, only to go home seven times without