After kicking off the 2018-19 PGA Tour season last October, this past weekend’s Players Championship began a stretch that will feature five of the game’s most important championships – one a month through July. It will continue with the Masters Tournament in four weeks, the PGA Championship in May, the 119th U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links in June and The Open Championship in July.
The women are also just a couple of weeks away from their first major of 2019 – the ANA Inspiration – with the 74th U.S. Women’s Open Championship at the Country Club of Charleston (S.C.) only 73 days away.
With that in mind, here are three things everyone should know as the intensity ramps up:
Irish Eyes Were Smiling
Maybe it was appropriate that St. Patrick’s Day was Sunday because one of Ireland’s favorite sons broke through for the biggest non-major victory of his career. Rory McIlroy, of Holywood in County Down, joined a select list of legends who have claimed the U.S. Open, The Open Championship, PGA Championship and The Players Championship: Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Lee Trevino.
McIlroy, who turns 30 on May 4, will seek an extremely rare double in June at Pebble Beach: winning The Players and U.S. Open in the same year, a feat achieved only by Martin Kaymer in 2014. McIlroy, of course, won’t need the three-year U.S. Open exemption he received on Sunday for winning The Players, as his dominant victory at Congressional Country Club in 2011 earned him starts through 2021.
McIlroy, who shared sixth a week ago in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and was the runner-up to 2016 U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson in the WGC-Mexico Championship three weeks ago, needed a two-putt birdie on the par-5 16th hole and two closing pars to edge 2003 U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk by one stroke at TPC Sawgrass. Furyk, currently not exempt into the U.S. Open and a late add to The Players field, stuffed his approach on the 18th hole to 3 feet to reach 15-under 273 before McIlroy tied him with a 15-foot birdie on 15 and then forged ahead on the ensuing hole.