THE PLAYERS Championship 2019 delivered upon its return to March, setting the stage for what should be an epic next few months of Major championship play.
The biggest names in the sport flocked to TPC Sawgrass for a weekend that was filled with drama and capped off by a victory from one of the game's most recognizable stars — Rory McIlroy.
With The Masters® less than a month away, THE PLAYERS has implications that may play out through the rest of the spring and into the summer.
Here are our four takeaways from THE PLAYERS 2019:
McIlroy in Masters Mode
Simply put, the 2018 season was a wash for Northern Ireland's biggest star. That's not to say that there weren't bright spots — Rory McIlroy scored Top 5 finishes at The Masters and The Open. But the Sunday round at THE PLAYERS Championship 2019 would mark one year to the date since McIlroy's last win on the PGA Tour. For a perennial Top 10 player, 2018's performances just weren't up to par.
One of the most unspeakable moments of his 2018 campaign came when McIlroy missed the cut at TPC Sawgrass — a course his play usually excels at.
But golf is a game that ebbs and flows, and McIlroy hit a peak at THE PLAYERS Championship this weekend. The 29-year old was tied with England's Tommy Fleetwood at 12-under through two rounds, but a 70 on round three let Spain's John Rahm jump in front of him.
On Sunday, the same score that lost him the lead wound up being the number that put McIlroy back on top. His 70 on the final round, highlighted by five birdies on the last 10 holes, were enough to put him above runner-up Jim Furyk by one stroke.
McIlroy could not be hotter headed into Augusta National® next month. The victory at TPC Sawgrass is the most recent in a string of dominant performances to start off 2019. Of the six events he's competed in through 2019, McIlroy has five Top 5 finishes. The only outlier is a sixth-place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Talk about momentum heading into The Masters.
Rahm Building Momentum
The Under-30 club on the PGA Tour is overflowing with talent at the moment, featuring Top 10 players like Brooks Koepka (28), Justin Thomas (25), Xander Schauffele (25) and the aforementioned McIlroy (29).
But after a solid performance at TPC Sawgrass, it's becoming increasingly difficult to disregard Spaniard Jon Rahm's name on that list. The 24-year-old led the competition through three rounds this weekend, and while a final round 76 put a damper on a potential career-defining performance, he still showed that he's got the stuff.
Rahm's third round at TPC Sawgrass was one to marvel at as he sank seven birdies and an eagle to rocket up to the top of the leaderboard. While the streaky shooting didn't carry over onto Sunday, it did show the potential of Rahm when he is at full power.
Tiger's Nightmare Hole
Any momentum that Tiger Woods had at TPC Sawgrass was brought to a halt when he came the 'Island Green' at No.17 on Friday. Woods approached the tee two shots behind the lead and with three birdies on the day, he was looking in proper form. But then disaster struck — Woods' first two attempts from the tee overshot the green and made their way into the water. His third attempt from tee (5th stroke officially) finally landed, and it took two putts from there to get out of the treacherous trap.
The quadruple bogey, Woods' first ever at TPC Sawgrass, sent him from contention to barely making it past the cut. The rest of the weekend resulted in Woods trying to dig himself back out of the hole his created, but it was to no avail. He finished T30 with a 6-under final score.
Golf is hard.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 15, 2019
Tiger Woods puts two in the water on No. 17. 💦 pic.twitter.com/xEqCMx04Z0
Spieth's Struggles Continue
It's time to start worrying about Jordan Spieth. After a lackluster 2018, the hope was that golf's former prodigy was aiming for 2019 to get back on track. However, THE PLAYERS Championship showed that there may be something may just be rotten in the state of Spieth's game.
Spieth shot an abysmal 76 on Thursday to start the Championship, and a 69 in the second round wasn't enough to save him from the dreaded cut.
This was quite possibly the worst outcome for the golfer looking to get his confidence back.. With The Masters less than a month away, it's going to be put-up-or-shut-up time for the former Green Jacket winner.
Get on the Wait List for THE PLAYERS 2020
With THE PLAYERS 2019 officially in the books, we're already looking ahead to what TPC Sawgrass has in store for 2020. Get on the wait list for Official Ticket Packages to THE PLAYERS Championship 2020 to get updates on when packages will go on sale.