McIlroy cards worst score in nearly TWO YEARS at Players Championship

Rory McIlroy cards his worst score in nearly TWO YEARS at Players Championship as he blames his DRIVER for four-over-par start

  • Rory McIlroy is now in danger of missing the cut at the Players Championship
  • He hadn’t played a worse round since the opening 18 holes of the 2021 Masters 
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Rory McIlroy is in need of a bounce if he is to survive the cut at the Players Championship and he is sharp enough to understand the irony of such an unfamiliar situation.

It was with considerable frustration that he signed for his worst score in nearly two years on Thursday and then bemoaned the absence of a trusted driver which had become just a little too springy with old age.

No longer able to meet regulations that limit the ‘trampoline effect’ of a clubface, it was dispatched to a shadowy corner of his home three weeks ago and TaylorMade’s replacement contrived to land the world No 3 in all manner of rough spots at Sawgrass in a four-over-par loop of 76.

User error played a role, too, he accepted, but the combination of a misfiring workman and a misbehaving tool is a problem that requires an urgent fix, which goes for both this tournament and the somewhat bigger gathering at Augusta in less than a month.

Given the excellence of his form in the past year, it really would be an inopportune moment for McIlroy to start exploring the outer limits of courses on a prolonged basis.

Rory McIlroy is seen on the 10th hole during the first round of The Players  Championship

McIlroy ended the round at Sawgrass at a four-over-par loop of 76, his worst score since 2021

‘Obviously I went to that new driver in Riviera and I wish I could use my driver from last year,’ said McIlroy, who hit only six of 14 fairways, with most of his misses to the right.

‘I can’t because if you use a driver for so long, it just wouldn’t pass the test. The more a club is used, the more it’s hit, the more springy the face becomes.

‘These driver heads are so finicky that it’s hard to get one exactly the same. I’m obviously trying my best, trying to get something that’s as close to what I had last year, (but) I struggled a little bit off the tee the last couple weeks.’

He was able to nurse that issue to take a runner-up spot at Bay Hill last week, but at Sawgrass for what is styled as the fifth major, his cause was undermined further by iffy play from the thick rough around the greens.

The Northern Irishman only hit six of 14 fairways at TPC Sawgrass Thursday

Indeed, a botched chip into a bunker caused a double bogey at his first hole of the round – the 10th on the course – and he closed by firing from one greenside bunker to another for a bogey six at his last. 

In between he managed only two birdies either side of three further bogeys. Not a great day at all, especially in the company of Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler, the world No 1 and 2 who respectively shot a 71 and a 68.

‘I just couldn’t really get anything going,’ added McIlroy, whose hadn’t hit such a high score since the first round of the 2021 Masters. ‘I need to regroup and try to shoot a good one tomorrow and be here for the weekend.’

The early clubhouse lead was set by Chad Ramsey of the US with an eight-under 64, one clear of Collin Morikawa. Justin Rose led the British contingent on three under.

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