Rory McIlroy, the world No. 1 golfer, is in danger of missing the cut at the Players Championship after a dismal opening round at TPC Sawgrass. The four-time major champion shot a 4-over-par 76, a score that is likely to leave him outside the projected cutline when the second round is completed on Friday.
McIlroy’s round got off to a poor start as he bogeyed the first hole, and things did not get much better from there. He made another bogey at the par-5 second hole, and then double bogeyed the par-4 fourth, hitting his approach shot into the water. A birdie on the par-4 sixth gave him a glimpse of hope, but he promptly gave it back with a bogey on the par-3 eighth.
The back nine was not much better for McIlroy, as he bogeyed the par-4 11th and then made a mess of the par-5 16th hole. After hitting his drive into the fairway bunker, he hit his second shot into the water, then chipped his third shot onto the green, but left himself with a long putt for par which he missed, resulting in another bogey.
McIlroy did manage to salvage a birdie on the par-5 18th hole, but it was too little, too late to save his round. His 76 puts him in a tie for 112th place in the 154-man field.
The Players Championship is one of the most prestigious events on the PGA Tour, and it has been a tournament that McIlroy has had success in the past. He won the event in 2019, and has finished in the top 10 in three of his last four starts here. However, he will need a strong second round if he hopes to make the cut this year.
McIlroy’s struggles on Thursday were largely due to his ball-striking, as he hit only six of 14 fairways and nine of 18 greens in regulation. He also struggled on the greens, averaging 1.778 putts per hole and missing several short putts for par.
Despite his poor showing, McIlroy remained optimistic about his chances of making the cut. Speaking after his round, he said: “It’s not as if I’m four or five shots outside the cut line. I’m only three back, and I feel like I can go out there tomorrow and shoot a good score.”
McIlroy will need to find some form quickly if he hopes to make up ground in the second round. He is scheduled to tee off at 12:51 PM ET on Friday, and will need to produce a score of at least 3-under-par to have a chance of making the weekend.
If he is unable to improve his score, it would be a huge disappointment for McIlroy, who has been in excellent form this year. He has won two events already in 2021, including the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and has finished in the top 10 in five of his seven starts.
McIlroy’s struggles at the Players Championship are also symptomatic of a larger trend of inconsistency in his game over the past few years. Since winning his last major championship at the 2014 PGA Championship, he has had several high-profile collapses in major championships, including a meltdown at the 2011 Masters and a back-nine collapse at the 2019 Open Championship.
McIlroy will need to show resilience and determination if he hopes to turn his fortunes around at the Players Championship. He is one of the most talented players on the PGA Tour, and has shown the ability to bounce back from adversity in the past.
The second round of the Players Championship promises to be a fascinating day of golf, with several other high-profile players also struggling in the opening round. World No. 2 Justin Thomas and defending champion Webb Simpson both shot 75s, while Bryson DeChambeau, the big-hitting American, struggled to a 3-over-par 75.
The Players Championship is always one of the most competitive events on the PGA Tour, and this year promises to be no exception. With so many top players struggling, there is sure to be plenty of drama and excitement over the next few days, as the field battles it out for one of the most coveted titles in golf.