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Rory McIlroy wins The Players and will strut to the Masters as a favorite

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There is no non-Tiger player more fun to watch when he’s on than Rory McIlroy and we got it at TPC Sawgrass.

The PLAYERS Championship - Final Round Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

It’s been the case for five years now. There is no one better in the game of golf to watch when he’s on than Rory McIlroy.

That theorem had gotten dusty sitting on the shelf in recent years, rarely put to use. There was that one Sunday at Bay Hill, but aside from that, it’s been mostly just a series of weekend teases. Only Rory McIlroy could make constant contention frustrating to watch. It’s because of that theorem — we know how much fun it is to watch him put the pedal down and dust everyone at the biggest events in the game. He would pull us in with one low round and then disappear or recede during a rough stretch on the weekend, blowing wedges over the green or putting like a middling to average player. We never got Rory in full, save for a couple hours of unconscious putting at Bay Hill one year ago.

This season just felt like an inevitable ticking clock to this moment, Rory’s convincing win at The Players Championship. There were some of those momentary wedge troubles or putting mishaps, but nothing like we’d seen repeatedly through the last two years. Rory was dialed-in, had been since the very first week of the year, and was going to win.

The win came at the biggest event of the season so far, one that every great player wants to add to his resume. McIlroy, who once battled with the PGA Tour and skipped this event entirely, now has everything but the green jacket. The close calls in Hawaii and California and the WGC Mexico were simply a preface to this win, not some troubling trend that would continue. This was obvious and it had felt and looked different all season.

So Rory won The Players Championship in a way that reminded us why there’s no one more fun to watch when he says screw it, let’s cook. It culminated at the 18th, as Paul Azinger questioned his decision to pull driver on arguably the most dangerous driving hole on the PGA Tour schedule. With a one-shot lead, it might be safer to hit some shorter club and make the miss smaller, neutralizing the water all down the left side.

But Rory did not debate any other play. He is the best driver in the world. He has been this even during the frustrating stretches that felt like wasted time. Just a day after he murdered the ball right down the water line at the 18th, Rory hit the big stick right down the middle again on Sunday. It came just moments after Azinger had second-guessed it. Azinger was not in the wrong to bring it up — that’s his job and why he’s good at it. But in that moment, Rory channeled what his former caddie, JP Fitzgerald, once chastised him with during those underwhelming moments — “You’re Rory McIlroy, what the fuck are you doing?” There was no other play — use what you’re best at the world with and end it.

The drive was a rope that went nearly 300 yards into the perfect position. Then on the approach shot, the part of his game that’s often led to the frustration, he got even more aggressive, going left of an already left pin on the water side of the green. Rory stuck it, two-putted for his par, and strutted to collect another career benchmark trophy.

The par capped a 3-under back nine full of nuked drives, stuffed approach shots, and some clutch putts. With a manic pace all around him and challengers popping up everywhere, this was the full Rory and the opposite of that tease we watched so many times the last two years.

This week was a well-timed exhibit of why he’s so beloved among peers, fans, and the media (hi!). The way he’s played all season, even before this win, he was going to get back to favorite status for The Masters. This championship and this win stand on its own, but with Rory, everything is also framed in the context of what it means for Augusta National. We can’t wait to get there.


We’ll have more holistic thoughts coming on a final round that was one of the best in years on the PGA Tour. But for now, here are your final scores from TPC Sawgrass:

The Players Scores — 2019

Place Player Score Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Payout
Place Player Score Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Payout
1 Rory McIlroy -16 67 65 70 70 2,250,000
2 Jim Furyk -15 71 64 71 67 1,350,000
T3 Eddie Pepperell -14 72 68 68 66 725,000
T3 Jhonattan Vegas -14 72 69 67 66 725,000
T5 Dustin Johnson -13 69 68 69 69 456,250
T5 Brandt Snedeker -13 69 72 65 69 456,250
T5 Tommy Fleetwood -13 65 67 70 73 456,250
T8 Hideki Matsuyama -12 71 72 66 67 350,000
T8 Justin Rose -12 74 66 68 68 350,000
T8 Brian Harman -12 66 69 71 70 350,000
T8 Jason Day -12 70 66 68 72 350,000
T12 Adam Scott -11 70 69 68 70 253,125
T12 Joel Dahmen -11 69 71 67 70 253,125
T12 Abraham Ancer -11 69 66 70 72 253,125
T12 Jon Rahm -11 69 68 64 76 253,125
T16 Nick Taylor -10 73 69 69 67 193,750
T16 Webb Simpson -10 70 70 70 68 193,750
T16 Keegan Bradley -10 65 73 68 72 193,750
T16 Ollie Schniederjans -10 71 70 65 72 193,750
T20 Ryan Moore -9 67 74 69 69 156,250
T20 Bryson DeChambeau -9 70 69 69 71 156,250
T22 Sergio Garcia -8 69 70 74 67 125,000
T22 J.T. Poston -8 68 69 73 70 125,000
T22 Tony Finau -8 69 71 68 72 125,000
T22 Kevin Kisner -8 68 68 71 73 125,000
T26 Emiliano Grillo -7 70 72 73 66 94,375
T26 Billy Horschel -7 69 70 73 69 94,375
T26 Matt Kuchar -7 69 70 72 70 94,375
T26 Byeong-Hun An -7 66 71 73 71 94,375
T30 Gary Woodland -6 72 69 73 68 77,625
T30 Tiger Woods -6 70 71 72 69 77,625
T30 Matt Wallace -6 69 73 70 70 77,625
T30 Lucas Bjerregaard -6 70 70 70 72 77,625
T30 Tom Hoge -6 69 71 70 72 77,625
T35 Charles Howell III -5 69 70 75 69 60,312
T35 Seamus Power -5 74 67 73 69 60,312
T35 Brice Garnett -5 71 69 73 70 60,312
T35 Justin Thomas -5 71 72 70 70 60,312
T35 Rory Sabbatini -5 68 69 74 72 60,312
T35 Russell Knox -5 70 68 73 72 60,312
T41 Thorbjorn Olesen -4 70 69 76 69 45,000
T41 Martin Trainer -4 73 69 72 70 45,000
T41 Matthew Fitzpatrick -4 70 71 72 71 45,000
T41 Denny McCarthy -4 69 72 72 71 45,000
T41 Corey Conners -4 72 70 68 74 45,000
T41 Vaughn Taylor -4 67 70 71 76 45,000
T47 Bud Cauley -3 69 70 76 70 31,389
T47 Jason Kokrak -3 73 68 74 70 31,389
T47 Andrew Landry -3 73 68 73 71 31,389
T47 Kelly Kraft -3 73 70 71 71 31,389
T47 Sung Kang -3 73 66 74 72 31,389
T47 Keith Mitchell -3 71 65 75 74 31,389
T47 Richy Werenski -3 72 71 68 74 31,389
T47 Rickie Fowler -3 74 67 68 76 31,389
T47 Patrick Reed -3 69 69 69 78 31,389
T56 Louis Oosthuizen -2 73 70 73 70 27,250
T56 Brooks Koepka -2 72 71 73 70 27,250
T56 Cameron Smith -2 72 70 73 71 27,250
T56 Chris Kirk -2 74 69 72 71 27,250
T56 Scott Piercy -2 74 68 72 72 27,250
T56 Francesco Molinari -2 72 70 72 72 27,250
T56 Si Woo Kim -2 73 68 72 73 27,250
T56 Bubba Watson -2 72 71 70 73 27,250
T56 Luke List -2 69 68 75 74 27,250
T56 Brian Gay -2 76 67 68 75 27,250
T56 Ian Poulter -2 69 66 75 76 27,250
T67 Scott Langley -1 69 72 75 71 25,500
T67 Jimmy Walker -1 75 68 73 71 25,500
T67 Daniel Berger -1 75 68 70 74 25,500
70 Michael Thompson E 69 71 72 76 25,000
71 Martin Kaymer 3 71 69 73 78 24,750
T72 C.T. Pan 4 72 70 74 76 24,375
T72 Branden Grace 4 73 70 72 77 24,375