McIlroy emerges from wild day to win Players Championship

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — His best swing was followed by his biggest drive, both setting up birdies, and from there Rory McIlroy knew how to finish.

Suddenly staked to a one-shot lead, McIlroy had a 125-yard walk along the water to the 17th hole to face an island that never looks smaller than on Sunday at The Players Championship, followed by the toughest hole on the TPC Sawgrass with water down the entire left side.

“Just make three more good swings … and this thing is yours,” McIlroy kept telling himself.

He delivered in a major way to win the next best thing to major.

McIlroy made two late birdies to regain the lead, was at his best when the pressure was the highest, and he closed with a 2-under 70 for a one-shot victory over Jim Furyk in his 10th appearance at The Players Championship.

“To step up and make those three good swings, it’s very satisfying knowing that it’s in there when it needs to be,” McIlroy said.

McIlroy could not afford a mistake over the final hour because of Furyk, the 48-year-old former Ryder Cup captain who nearly pulled off a stunner. Furyk, one of the last players to qualify for the strongest field in golf, capped off a 67 with a 7-iron into the…

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