Rory McIlroy was sublime at The Players Championship – leading virtually from the start and winning in style – but what impressed me most was the way he took it all in his stride.
Having struggled on the front nine at times last week without necessarily playing bad golf, he had another difficult start to his round on Sunday, making a double bogey at the sixth.
But McIlroy was magnificent down the stretch at Sawgrass, recording four birdies in the space of six holes to close in on his first victory for just over a year.
The Northern Irishman just kept playing the way that he has been playing recently – the way that had seen him finish in the top six of his previous five tournaments.
A fantastic bunker shot set up a birdie at 15; he hit two beauties to pick up another at 16; and I don’t think anyone could have hit a better drive than Rory did at the last.
It’s probably the hardest drive in the game and he followed up with stunning iron onto the green and two putts to claim golf’s unofficial fifth Major.
Perfect timing for Augusta
This is a more mature McIlroy now. Looking at him as he waited to putt, there wasn’t a flicker of emotion – just real concentration on the job that he loves. He looked calm and in control.
His recent near misses have brought some criticism and everyone is entitled to their opinion. When you are up there week in, week out and you aren’t winning it can seem like you are on a bad run.
By his standards, it was disappointing in a way that one of those didn’t turn into a win, but I really think this could open the floodgates for a player like Rory. We’ll see.
I bet he wishes the Masters was starting tomorrow instead of next month. The way he is driving, he is the best in the world, and he is putting well now too.
This win is a huge factor in the reckoning at Augusta. The timing is perfect: close to the year’s first Major but not the week before, which would make it difficult to repeat.
He will certainly be the favourite in my book and I don’t think talk of completing the Career Grand Slam will faze him this time. This grown-up McIlroy is a different animal.
Because Rory won his four Majors in his early twenties, people think he’s older than he is. He doesn’t turn 30 until May and it’s worth remembering that Jack Nicklaus won the Masters when aged 46.
If McIlroy dons the Green Jacket he will join Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only men to win all four Majors and The Players Championship, which would be amazing.
Furyk to the fore
Age seems to be no barrier for Jim Furyk, who was second at Sawgrass.
It was nice to see because Jim is a wonderful man. His 67 on Sunday gave him a great chance of the title and it would probably have been enough had he not been up against someone in such hot form as McIlroy.
Eddie Pepperell produced a great final round of 66 to tie for third. The young Englishman is getting closer to a big, breakthrough win.
Compatriot Tommy Fleetwood’s disappointing 73 on Sunday couldn’t spoil a positive week, but overnight leader Jon Rahm paid for some foolish mistakes with a closing 76.
Francesco Molinari’s success looks to be rubbing off after fellow Italian Guido Migliozzi landed his first European Tour title in Kenya at the weekend.
Migliozzi played fantastic golf – especially given this was only his 14th event on the tour and he hadn’t finished in the top 10 in any of those previous outings.
This is a life-changing win for the youngster who, at just 22, looks like one to watch.