PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA – Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy claimed his maiden title at The Players Championship on Sunday, while Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama earned his third top-10 finish of the season.
Matsuyama, who started the day in 22nd place, made an eagle, four birdies and a bogey in a final-round 67 to close with a 12-under 276 at the TPC Sawgrass, four strokes behind McIlroy and in a four-way tie for eighth.
“The weather was bad so I thought I would have a chance (to win) if I finished at 15-under, but it’s too bad I didn’t quite get there,” said Matsuyama, who refused to let the rainy and windy conditions hamper his play.
“I was consistent off the tee and I didn’t miss short putts, so that explains my score. I thought if I qualified for the weekend I would make the most of it, somehow. I’m glad I finished in the top 10,” he said.
The 27-year-old Japanese eagled the 16th after hitting his 207-yard second to within six feet of a pin that was positioned hard-up against a water hazard.
Despite not scoring as low as he had hoped or winning his first title in two seasons, the late surge meant he jumped 14 spots on the leaderboard after carding 71 and 72 in the first two rounds and a 66 on Saturday. His form turnaround provides a much-needed boost before the March 27-31 Dell Technologies tournament and the April 11-14 Masters.
Four-time major winner McIlroy, who posted his first victory in a year, held off a surprise challenge from 2003 U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk, beating the 48-year-old American by a single stroke.