PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – It’s official: Rory McIlroy and the front nine at TPC Sawgrass just don’t get along.
For the second straight day, McIlroy dug himself a deep hole on the outward half but rallied coming home, with birdies on each of his last three holes to post a 3-under 69 during the third round of The Players Championship.
“I’m really happy with how I’ve been able to come back the last couple days, but it’s also a little frustrating that I’ve had to come back because I feel like I’m playing good enough to not have these little stretches of bad holes,” McIlroy said.
McIlroy shot a front-nine 42 yesterday, then as one of the first players out this morning he began 4 over after just six holes, including a watery double bogey on the short par-4 fourth hole. For the week he is now 9 over on the front side and 12 under on the back.
“I felt like I wasn’t playing as badly as the score was suggesting today,” he said. “I’d hit five greens in seven holes, and I was 4 over par.”
McIlroy has now made the cut on the number in each of the last three starts, but at both the Masters and the Wells Fargo Championship he rallied to post T-8 finishes. A back-door top-10 result is again a possibility on the Stadium Course, as the Ulsterman’s third-round effort took him to 3 under for the week and had moved him up more than 30 spots in the standings when he signed his scorecard.
With another shot at the front nine looming, McIlroy plans to play it safe across a stretch of holes that has cost him dearly this week.
“Just maybe put a premium on hitting it in the middles of greens and not taking too many chances, because I took a couple of chances today on a couple of the shorter holes and it didn’t really pay off,” he said. “Maybe just play a little more conservative on the front nine tomorrow.”