Rory McIlroy won the Players Championship, beating 48-year-old Jim Furyk by one shot after a thrilling final round at TPC Sawgrass.
The Northern Irishman’s two-under-par 70 gave him victory on 16-under-par, ahead of Furyk alone in second. England’s Eddie Pepperell and Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas were in a tie for third.
It is McIlroy’s first win in a year and sets him up for an attempt at the career Grand Slam at the Masters next month.
‘I feel like I’m playing some of the best golf of my life right now and I just need to keep doing the same things,’ he said. ‘If I hadn’t won today, I’d have said I didn’t need one going into Augusta but it’s nice to win on a course that will play similar to Augusta in a few weeks.’
McIlroy, 29, won the US Open in 2011, US PGA Championship in 2012 and 2014 and The Open in 2014 but is yet to win the Masters, which starts on 11 April and is live across the BBC. He has finished in the top six of all his tournaments in 2019.
The Players Championship is known unofficially as the ‘fifth Major’ and is the most prestigious of the regular PGA Tour events.
Pepperell holed a 50-foot putt on the 17th to briefly join McIlroy in a tie for the lead before the four-time Major champion pulled clear with birdies on the 15th and 16th.
Overnight leader Jon Rahm fell away in the closing stages and finished on 11 under after a 76, while Tommy Fleetwood struggled to a 73.
The English challenge on the final day was supposed to come from Fleetwood but it was Pepperell, playing in his first Players Championship, who surged into contention by firing six birdies from the 11th up until a monster putt across the 17th.
A fine par save on the 18th gave him the clubhouse lead and he was joined on 14-under by Vegas, who topped Pepperell’s putt by holing from 70 feet on the 17th.
Referencing the late golfing great Seve Ballesteros, the winner of five Majors between 1979 and 1988, Pepperell said: ‘I played terrible at times. I was useless with my 3-wood, which is normally my banker. I was great on the greens, though. I felt like Seve out there, to be fair.’
Fleetwood has elevated himself into the sport’s elite in the past two years, winning the European Tour’s Race to Dubai in 2017 and finishing second in last year’s US Open. But a victory on the PGA Tour continues to elude him after a disappointing final round in Sawgrass, with an opening bogey five setting the tone.
Former South African Rory Sabbatini, now playing for Slovakia, closed with a 72 to finish in a tie for 35th on five-under 283, while Louis Oosthuizen had a final round 70 for 286 and a tie for 56th and Branden Grace finished off his week with a 77 and tie for 72nd on four-over-par.
Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
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