Eddie Pepperell reached a new level with Players Championship display, says Ewen Murray
Last Updated: 18/03/19 1:21pm
Ewen Murray looks back at the highlights from a memorable week at the Players Championship and praises Eddie Pepperell for an impressive display at TPC Sawgrass.
There have been some great finishes here previously and there always be because of the last three holes on this golf course, but that was probably the best Players I've ever covered.
Yes there were a lot of bad shots in there, but there were a lot of brilliant shots in there and was everything you could possibly ask for in a big sporting events.
This week will make a big difference in the career of Eddie Pepperell. The struggles in the early part of his career will mean he enjoys this result even more and respect it. I'm thrilled for him, as he was someone who doubted himself a few years back, wasn't playing well and started falling out with the game.
When you look at that performance and that 68-66 over the weekend, it shows how he has moved to a new level and he will move up the world rankings considerably. He's well inside the top 50 now and heading towards the top 25.
I really don't know where we begin to start when describing what we saw in that final round! The thing that surprised me the most was that so many started so poorly and then it needed somebody to take it by the scruff of the neck.
At the beginning I wasn't entirely sure what I was watching, because there were mistakes from so many different players. It was a slightly more testing today but I wouldn't say the conditions made for a difficult day.
The amount of challengers in there and it could have been any one of 10 players to win with five or six holes to go. There's a turning point in a final round every week and for me the turning point for McIlroy was the par-five ninth.
Nobody had reached that green in two today and he was two-over-par and going backwards, but he hit a beautiful tee shot and took the flag on with his second.
That four changed everything; his demeanour, his spirit and even the way he walked. He bounced off that green and you felt from there that he was going to be the one that would do something on that back nine.
There were a few others who threatened, but McIlroy kept them at bay by using his belief and delivering when he needed to. He said himself that if he had not won he would say 'I don't need the victory', which means he was thinking about it and did need the victory!
The most impressive thing about McIlroy was that, as the pressure increased, he got better. He missed a small putt at 14 that brought everyone back in the picture, but the response was magnificent with the birdie at the 15.
I didn't think he should have hit a driver at the 16th but he did and out of the rough he had the control with the second. He found the 17th green when he had to, he hit a drive off the 18th that most of us will only ever dream of and it made the second shot easier for the win.
There are so many players playing well right now and there's not much of a gap between them, which great for the sport. McIlroy is up inside the top five again all of a sudden and there are plenty of names battling for the world No 1 position.