World No 1 Rory McIlroy continued a frustrating Players Championship trend in finishing just a few shots shy of victory for a third year running on the TPC Sawgrass course.
Decked out in pink as a tribute to US Mother’s Day, McIlroy got into red birdie figures on just three occasions in the sweltering conditions with birdies at two and then back-to-back birdies at 11 and 12 and ending with six straight pars in a round of 70 for an under par tally.
On a positive note, McIlroy was eight under on the par fives but then he was one over par on the Sawgrass front nine for the four rounds and nine under for the inward half of the Pete Dye-designed course.
“My game is right there and I am expecting a week if I hole putts then I will be in winning position,” he said.
“But then I am leaving Sawgrass frustrated again and it’s that sort of golf course and you look at the scores and I am only three behind the leader with no one going low.
“So that’s why I am coming off the course frustrated in feeling I have left five to 10 shots out there this week.
“But then ball-striking wise I am really happy where I am tee to green and I am in a very good place going into the summer.
“And now going back to Quail Hollow this week that’s good cause for added excitement as I have good memories and it’s a course I really enjoy.”
McIlroy was returning south to Palm Beach Gardens before heading to Charlotte on Wednesday to prepare for the $7.1m Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, and the scene in 2010 of his maiden PGA Tour triumph.
Pádraig Harrington is joining McIlroy in the North Carolina event and buoyed by a bogey-free final day five under par 67 for a two-under par tally. The triple Major winner birdied three of four holes from the second and then back-to-back birdies at 11 and 12 and with the best being at the par three 12th when he landed his tee shot to just five feet.
“It was a good last round and I putted a lot better today as I struggled the first few days with my putting, and it was all a matter of trusting it a bit more today,” he said.
“I was just awful early on this week but didn’t hit any bad putts at all today, and I could have holed a lot more, so I am happy with that.
“But then I was working it out in the scorer’s hut that 67 was worth $4,200, and I guess $4,200 is better in my pocket than someone else’s, for sure (smiling).”
On a serious note, Harrington has until Monday May 25 to move into the World’s top-60 to be assured of competing in the June 18 starting US Open at Chambers Bay.
“Qualifying for the US Open is still my main goal and that’s still at the forefront of everything,” he said.
McDowell was heading the two-hour drive south to his Orlando residence posting a last round 71 but failing to break 70 over the four days in an even par total.
“I played the par fives badly these last two days with the ‘6’ on nine killing me today, as I was three under after eight but then I blew my birdie putt six feet by and missed the putt coming back,” he said.
“That really killed my momentum and the long and short of this golf course is that if you play well you can score and if you don’t, it will really eat you up. So it’s back to the range for me this week. Grind, grind, grind.”
Meanwhile big-hitting Dustin Johnson has ruled out returning to Royal County to contest the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open later this month, opting for the Colonial in Texas instead. “I was thinking really hard of heading back to Royal County Down but given I missed a lot of the season at the start of the year, I need to think about my schedule and that means playing the Colonial,” he said after a final Players round 72 for a three over par total.
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