Life's a beach for Rory McIlroy as he aims for Players win

Justin Thomas

The famous 17th at Sawgrass - a 137-yard par three - is one of the most iconic holes in golf and here Lowry and his caddie Dermot Byrne take it on in practice.

McIlroy is making his ninth start in golf's "fifth major" this week, and he has enjoyed three top-10 finishes in his last five appearances after struggling to get to grips with the course in his first few visits.

The 30-year-old is optimistic though about his chances as he continues to chase his first victory on the PGA Tour.

"I was a little stubborn the first few years I came here and was trying to sort of break away from that, but, yeah, you just have to play this golf course a certain way and be a little bit better than everyone else with your irons and your wedges, and that's usually a good combination around here".

"I've gotten to know Sir Alex pretty well over the years", he said. "But coming in here, I kind of feel like I'm free-wheeling".

Anirban was even par on Friday previous year, as he walked up to the 18th tee box. But the man from Bengaluru had his "Tin Cup" moment that scarred his soul. A whopping 69 balls found the water there in 2017.

"I don't think anybody. will ever see that level of play again", he said. "I think I've got some demons to exorcise", said a candid Lahiri. And that was the last time he played on the weekend at Sawgrass. A good run this week will go a long way in helping Anirban stem the slide and secure his presence in the major events that lay in store over the next few months.

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McIlroy's first attempt to win the "fifth major" resulted in three missed cuts but since then finishes of eighth, sixth, eighth and 12th showed he was getting to grips with Sawgrass, before he ended in a tie for 35th a year ago. "Pretty much anyone in the field, if they play well that week, they're going to win".

Rory McIlroy plays his shot from the seventh tee during the final round of the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament at Quail Hollow Club. And he hopes to apply it to The Players Championship this week.

The Players Championship, held over the exacting Stadium course with its iconic island-green 17th, attracts the deepest field of the season and ranks for many as akin to a major.

"We have always looked at each other and said, where is he on the board", he said.

"This golf course negates a lot of different things". Any failure to land on the fairway can be penal.

Last year, McGirt sat in a tie for second after the first round with a 5-under 67, and then posted a 75 on Friday and Sunday to finish in a tie for 22nd in the tournament.

The majors have all been running significantly longer than the Players, but it still serves to illustrate how hard a tournament it is to win. But it is the pride at stake that makes this tournament an important highlight on any resume, including those of major winners.

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