Attitude adjustment key in McIlroy's win

Tiger Woods sent Rory Mc Ilroy a classic congratulatory text message after The Players

That was enough to edge ahead of overnight leaders Northern Irishman McIlroy and Englishman Fleetwood, who quickly frittered away what had been a three-shot advantage over their nearest rivals.

McIlroy set the U.S. Open scoring record a year later with an eight-shot victory. Kyle Stanley (2017) and Paul Azinger (1987) are the only players to make birdie on the island-green 17th all four rounds. But this is his biggest victory since leaving Hoylake with the claret jug almost five years ago, and it's one that has roots in a total transformation for McIlroy as he approaches his 30 birthday. And he can at least avoid questions about winning from the final group, something McIlroy hasn't done in his last nine occasions dating to the start of 2018. His worst finish in six starts this year is a tie for sixth, which came a week ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

McIlroy also joined some very elite company following his latest win.

But they both worked their way back into contention and carded 70s, a particularly good return for McIlroy in light of some mediocre driving. Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson also just need one big win.

"I feel like I've managed the first six tournaments of the year very well, even with some noise around me, whether 'he can't close, he can't play on Sundays, ' blah, blah, blah", McIlroy said.

McIlroy said he'd never heard of Valiante but, like Padraig Harrington, he's realised that separating what Kipling called the "twin imposters" of success and failure is the key to mental health in a game where losing is the norm.

It was important not to get down on himself if he didn't win, even if everyone expected him to at Wentworth previous year and Dubai two months ago.

Rahm will be going for his third career win on the PGA Tour on Sunday.

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"The 18th tee shot was the one", he said, "that was probably the most hard shot that I had all day; knowing I had a 4 to win. Yes, it would have been nice to maybe get another win, but it sort of made it all worth it, the fact that this win has come at this golf tournament, a tournament where Sawgrass and I didn't have the greatest relationship starting off".

"So that has been a big thing", McIlroy continued.

When he first came to the Players Championship in 2009 as a 19-year-old, he said, he missed the cut and spent the weekend getting kicked out of bars in the party area of Jacksonville Beach for being under age.

Jon Rahm said every time he stepped up to play a shot he felt like he was going to hit it well.

Not since 2012 has McIlroy started a year so well. "I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm confident in the path I'm on". It's one tournament. It's one month.

Rory McIlroy at 18 today on his way to a one-shot win. Memories are short in golf.

Slow play has become one of the PGA Tour's most talked-about issues, which came to a head at the recent Genesis Open in Los Angeles when victor JB Holmes was lambasted by commentators for his slow final round. Winning doesn't hurt, though McIlroy is not sure his victory at The Players will help or damage his shot at a green jacket. "Especially doing it on this golf course, which played similar to the way Augusta will play".

McIlroy headed home to south Florida with $2.25 million, the lead in the FedEx Cup, his world ranking at No. 4. He won for the first time in almost a year (the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 18, 2018 was his last) and did it navigating a tricky Sunday course that thinned out a cluster of contenders down the stretch.

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