McIlroy an erratic birdie machine, Kaymer king

Rory McIlroy made six birdies more than newly-crowned Players Championship winner Martin Kaymer and even made history by becoming the first player to birdie the 18th at TPC Sawgrass four days running.

With 25 birdies to the German's 19, he was left to rue two double bogey and 12 bogeys with all of them bar two bogeys coming on the front nine.

 Kaymer came out after a weather delay with a three stroke lead over Jim Furyk and recovered from a double bogey at the 15th with a clutch, banana shaped par save from 28 feet at the 17th before getting up and down from short of the green with the putter for a 71 and a one-shot victory on 13 under.

McIlroy, meanwhile, was left to wonder what might have been.

If only he'd been able to play the front nine a little better and not let his frustration and aggression get the better of him. He was, after all, eight over for the opening nine and an incredible 17 under for the back, where he came home in 31 for the second day running for a 66  that left him tied for sixth, four behind Kaymer on nine under par.

Looking on the bright side, it was his fourth successive Top-10 finish and his seventh from 10 starts since he won his most recent event in Australia at the end of last year.

No wonder he was looking on the bright side, pointing out that it's probably better to be making lots of birdies (and mistakes) rather than just plodding along playing poorly and making nothing happen at all.

"I'm seeing enough really good golf in there to be really positive going into the sort of main stretch of the season," McIlroy said after the finishing with birdies at the last three holes — The Gauntlet — for the second day running. He also managed to play the front nine in one under par.

"Overall, it's been another solid week," McIlroy said. "Another back-door top-10, as I like to call them. But it's getting close. I'm playing well. I'm playing solid."

Speaking to Sky Sports, he said: "It gives me a lot of confidence (for the weeks ahead). I've played really well over the weekend here, shooting a couple of scores in the 60s and playing the back nine as I have all week.

"I've played the front nine a little better today and that obviously ended up in a better score. I feel like my game is in really good shape. Still waiting on that win but racking up the Top-10s and solid finishes, so it's not too bad. 

"Looking forward to a week off and getting back at it at Wentworth. Wentworth hasn't been a happy hunting ground for me in the last few years so I am looking forward to going there and playing well and giving a good account of myself.

'But this is a course here at Sawgrass that I haven't done well on in the past either, so I am learning how to play it and hopefully I will do the same at Wentworth."

Graeme McDowell had a birdie at the 10th and a bogey at the 18th in an uneventful 72 to finish tied for 62nd on one-over having blown his title chances by dropping five shots in his last five holes in a 77 on Saturday.