PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – After a five-hour trip around the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, Rory McIlroy found himself right where he started.
An even-par 72 wasn’t how McIlroy had hoped to begin The Players Championship, especially given the bevy of low scores that resulted from the morning wave. While he wasn’t entirely disappointed with his opening-round effort, he found it difficult to keep up with the pace set by Jason Day’s record-tying 63.
“I don’t know what the guys were doing out there this morning, but I don’t think we saw the same golf course this afternoon,” McIlroy said. “It was a little firmer, the wind got up a little bit, and those guys made the course look awfully easy this morning.”
McIlroy made the turn in 37, continuing his trend of frustrating results on TPC Sawgrass’ outward half, and he didn’t make a birdie until No. 11. McIlroy gave another stroke back when his 4-iron approach to the par-5 16th found the water, but he returned to even par with a birdie on the next hole.
McIlroy has displayed a knack for sparking rounds in a hurry on this particular layout, but he was unable to do so this time around.
“Today I just didn’t get on one of those runs,” he said. “It was just one of those days where it was sort of in neutral. I couldn’t really get it going much at all.”
McIlroy hit eight drives over 300 yards, including a 337-yard belter on the home hole, but those towering tee shots failed to produce many viable birdie chances. It’s a somewhat familiar refrain this season for McIlroy, who ranks 165th on Tour in proximity from 125-150 yards.
“Distance control has been off. I’ve been hitting some short, hitting some long,” McIlroy said. “I feel like there’s quite a bit of disparity between a three-quarter shot and a full shot and, yeah, probably something I need to work on a little bit.”