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Rory McIlroy struggles to opening-round 76 at THE PLAYERS

2 Min Read


    Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin

    PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Rory McIlroy’s opening round at THE PLAYERS Championship was defined by the par-5 16th hole.

    McIlroy was seemingly in trouble off the tee, facing a 193-yard approach from the pine straw, over water and protected by tree limbs. His low punch landed just short of the green and released to 30 feet, leaving an eagle try.

    Then he three-putted.

    McIlroy took 31 putts Thursday at TPC Sawgrass’ THE PLAYERS Stadium Course, en route to a 4-over 76 that left him 12 strokes off Chad Ramey’s pace through the morning wave.

    McIlroy’s day began with a double bogey at the par-4 10th hole; his approach missed the green left, then his third skittered across the green into a greenside bunker. His fourth then failed to reach the putting surface. He managed only two birdies against four additional bogeys.

    The 2019 PLAYERS champ faces a heavy lift to advance to the weekend, let alone move back into contention. McIlroy missed the cut at TPC Sawgrass in 2021, then finished T33 last year.

    “The three-putt on 16 was probably the one that sort of stopped any momentum,” McIlroy said after signing his card. “I hit a really good shot out of the pine straw there and didn’t capitalize on that, and making bogey on 1 and bogey on 3 … was tough to get it back from there.”


    McIlroy, No. 3 on the Official World Golf Ranking, competed in a “Big Three” grouping alongside world No. 1 Jon Rahm and world No. 2 Scottie Scheffler.

    Scheffler carded 4-under 68, and Rahm recorded 1-under 71. The trio will run it back at 12:56 p.m. ET Friday, starting on No. 1.

    McIlroy will aim to outpace his playing partners Friday in hopes of returning to the mix, particularly with the flat stick. The reigning FedExCup champ ranked in the top half of the field Thursday in Strokes Gained: Approach the Green, but near the bottom in Strokes Gained: Putting.

    He didn’t make a putt outside 4 feet until his final hole Thursday, a bogey putt at the par-5 ninth measuring 5 feet, 10 inches.

    “I made a good birdie on 11 and was solid enough,” McIlroy said. “Missed a couple of chances. You’ve got the four par-5s, and then … (Nos.) 4 and 12 … if you’re on your game, you should be making birdie on those. So there are still plenty of birdie opportunities out there.”

    He’ll intend to maximize them Friday -- and ideally into the weekend.

    Kevin Prise is an associate editor for the PGA TOUR. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.