By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Four birdies over his final six holes left Rory McIlroy feeling good about his game, but the ending was also bittersweet.
"I didn't play the par 5s particularly well," said McIlroy, who was a collective 4 under on them for the week but also 3 over on the ninth hole alone at TPC Sawgrass. "You play (No. 9) at level par and you're 10 under for the tournament and you're up there."
On the one hand, McIlroy made it to the weekend at THE PLAYERS Championship after missed cuts in his first three trips here. On the other, he struggled with his putter on the weekend and that took him out of contention.
McIlroy, who shot 2-under 70 on Sunday, missed eight putts from inside 10 feet over the last two days, including three in the final round.
He'd come into the week having made three adjustments to his putter, the most recent of which came this week with a little more loft to help him get the ball rolling on the Bermudagrass.
McIlroy says he'll stick with it, however, because the problem was his stroke more than the equipment. His putting coach, Dave Stockton, agrees. "He likes to forward press like I do," Stockton said. "I just felt like that would get him to roll the ball better, and he did for the first round. In terms of mechanics, we didn't change anything."
Said McIlroy: "I just didn't hole them. I struggled a little bit reading them, and I got a bit indecisive. Over the course of the week, if you keep seeing putts miss, it's hard to visualize them going in the hole when you're reading them, and that was sort of the problem this week."
Unlike past years, his strategy wasn't. McIlroy left the driver in the bag more often than in past trips here and the result led to his best week yet at TPC Sawgrass, where he finished at 7 under.
Not that he's grown any fonder of Pete Dye's signature course.
"I'm not sure I love any course," he said. "A golf course is a golf course, but there are still a few golf courses that I like more than this one."