Rory McIlroy scores disappointing 76 to open 2023 Players Championship, making missed cut a possibility
Rory McIlroy left his best pieces in the Players Championship interview room this week. After an interesting and industry-defining press conference on Tuesday where McIlroy discussed the future of the PGA Tour and professional golf, he failed to show the same aplomb on Thursday in his first round at TPC Sawgrass, hitting 4 of 76 before falling. double digit hits back from lead 8-less.
It started badly and didn’t get much better. McIlroy doubled his par-4 on the 10th hole early in the day, and the shot that led to that double—a miss to the right of the target—haunted him for the next 17 holes. He bounced back from a par-5 birdie in 11th, but even his biggest finish in his first nine (back nine on the field) wasn’t really a highlight.
After another missed right off the tee on the 16th, McIlroy landed one of the craziest shots we’ve seen on the TPC Sawgrass from an impossible position from 199 yards to 27 feet. And, of course, he pocketed three puts from there for a disappointing par. (He played even-numbered par-5s, which was a terrible number for him.)
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In general, he played well on the shirt, but he was not good for him, and he knew it.
“I went to this new rider in the Riviera and… I would like to use my last year rider, but I can’t just because… basically he just wouldn’t pass the test,” he said. “These heads are so finicky that it’s hard to get exactly the same. I mean, I’m obviously trying my best, trying to get something as close as possible to what I had last year. Yes, just a little work. T-shirt for the last couple of weeks.
“Obviously part of that is also the user. There are also quite a few user errors.”
McIlroy came out with 38 and came home with 38 and a disappointing 76.
Bad installation is another topic. McIlroy only made one shot over 4 feet long, and it came on the last bogey hole to avoid throwing a 77. Only two players had worse records than McIlroy when he finished; no one had the worst performance on the green. This was not helped by the fact that he left the shot in the bunker on the very closing hole.
Sure, his tee-on-the-green play was below average for him, which made him bad at scoring, but his short play was unusually unkempt. That is why his number increased dramatically to 4, which was one of the worst results in the morning wave.
McIlroy bounced back from a 1-for-73 record at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week and nearly won the tournament despite losing eight strokes to John Ram. This time he is 12 shots behind Chad Ramey and 11 behind Collin Morikawa. At this point, it would be shocking if he was in the spotlight on a Sunday afternoon.
This is not a crazy result in TPC Sawgrass. While McIlroy has been playing pretty well lately and won the 2019 Players Championship over Jim Furyk, he has also been wrestling in Sawgrass for the better part of the past six years. In five starts, he has only one win, but nothing else in the top 30. It looks like this move neutralized his elite shots on the ball.
McIlroy will play late Friday night with Rahm and Scotty Sheffler as he tries to do something stupid to get into the cut and maybe get back into the tournament for a bit. However, after Thursday’s 76th, his chances of winning the biggest tournament of the year to date are practically nil.