PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The signs are pointed in the right direction for Rory McIlroy.
In Sunday’s final round of THE PLAYERS Championship, he shot a 6-under 66, tying his career-low round at TPC Sawgrass. He continued to eat up the back nine, and he set a record at the usually tough finishing hole. He walked off the course headed for another top-10 (albeit back-door) finish.
And he likes where his game is headed with three majors and the FedExCup Playoffs left this season.
“I’m seeing enough really good golf in there to be really positive going into the sort of main stretch of the season,” McIlroy said Sunday after finishing at 9 under for the tournament.
McIlroy was never really in contention this weekend after shooting a 2-over 74 in Friday’s second round that left him scrambling to make the cut, which he did with a clutch putt on his 36th hole. But he backed up his third-round 69 with an eight-birdie performance on Sunday, six of those on the back nine.
In fact, this week, he was a cumulative 17 under on the back nine while becoming the first player since 1983 when records were kept to birdie the par-4 18th in all four rounds. For the second day in a row, he birdied the Gauntlet — the finishing three holes at TPC Sawgrass.
And unlike the previous three rounds, McIlroy finally solved the front nine, playing it under par for the first time all week. He was 9 over in the first three rounds on TPC Sawgrass’ frontside.
He should finish inside the top 10 for the sixth time in eight starts on the PGA TOUR this season. Most of them have come after playing his way out of contention early in the tournament, then sizzling on the weekend.
That’s one thing he needs to fix. He needs a quicker start so that those back-door top-10s turn into wins.
“Overall, it’s been another solid week,” McIlroy said. “… Another back-door top-10, as I like to call them. But it’s getting close. I’m playing well. I’m playing solid.”