Monday, March 18, 2019

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Rory McIlroy is the first to take home the new PLAYERS trophy. (Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR)

Teeing Off


Clutch. Gutsy. Fearless. Daring. Pick one, any one. They all work. Rory McIlroy’s performance Sunday at TPC Sawgrass will go down as one of the most dramatic and pressure-filled in the history of THE PLAYERS Championship. All he did was play flawless golf during the final three treacherous holes, including sticking his approach to 19 feet on the 18th, which played as the hardest hole of the day. His 2-under 70 was one slim shot better than apparent superhero Jim Furyk. And when it was all said and done, he had set the gold standard for the week, earning 600 FedExCup points, the $2.25 million check (gulp) and entry into the history books. The former FedExCup winner also has bragging rights for being the first player to win the redesigned PLAYERS trophy.


There was one ace and plenty of red faces. There was a wedding proposal and plenty of balls being disposed of. Ah, the Island Green. It giveth and taketh away. The iconic par-3 17th was once again the center of attention at THE PLAYERS, and for good reason. On Thursday, Ryan Moore made the ninth hole-in-one on the 17th hole in THE PLAYERS history, and it was pure dunk city. The ball hit about 2 feet up the flagstick before deflecting straight down into the hole. Then there was Tiger Woods on Friday, who hit two balls in the water and walked away with a quadruple bogey 7 (ouch). It was his worst score on the hole in 69 competitive rounds. But Tiger and Kevin Na did share a memorable laugh on the hole on Saturday. Sunday was historic when Vegas rolled in a birdie from 70 feet(!!), the longest putt ever made on the Island Green. Another positive moment came when Sergio Garcia perfectly played a big role in a surprise marriage proposal during a practice round. All in all, the Island Green played tough but fair all week. And now it has a full year to come up with a way to outdo itself in 2020.


Anxiety can be high for the competitors during THE PLAYERS, which means some levity is needed. Last week had plenty of it. Funny guy Conor Moore was spot on with his impersonations of some of the game’s best players, Webb Simpson and caddie Paul Tesori competed in the Island Green Challenge (which included being blindfolded) and Sam Saunders recreated some of the most memorable shots in THE PLAYERS history. But Joel Dahmen’s caddie Geno Bonnalie might have stolen the show. Bonnalie attempted to play the Island Green after eating a notoriously hot and spicy chip, and the struggle was REAL. His face immediately turned red, the sweating was significant, and this quote might have summed it up best: “I broke both of my arms at the same time when I was 13. I’d rather do that again.”


A quick deep breath, and they’re back. The TOUR heads southwest to Palm Harbor, Florida, for the Valspar Championship. The Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead course is home to the Snake Pit, a three-hole stretch which features two of the toughest par 4s on TOUR. Paul Casey is back to defend his title, and the field is deep. Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm will be playing the event for the first time, and 500 FedExCup points will go to the winner as the Florida Swing comes to an end.

Video Of The Week

The Turn

mic check

"I'm very thankful to the PGA TOUR for putting it back to March." - Rory McIlroy on THE PLAYERS move from May to March.

by the numbers

3 - Holes-in-one (Ryan Moore, Sungjae Im, Seamus Power). It was the third time there have been three holes-in-one at THE PLAYERS in the same year (2000, 2006).

236 - Yards away Harris English was when he jarred his approach for albatross on No. 11.

10 - Spots Rory moved to the top of the FedExCup standings from No. 11 with the win. He won the FedExCup in 2016.


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