PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Rory McIlroy just cannot seem to figure out TPC Sawgrass.
McIlroy missed the cut for the third consecutive time at The Players Championship. After opening with an even-par 72 on Thursday, McIlroy shot 4-over 76 on Friday.
"I made a birdie at the first hole, then could not get anything going after that," he said. "I just have to find a way to figure out this golf course somehow. It's pretty difficult."
The world No. 1 had cashed in 22 consecutive worldwide starts since his last missed cut, in Charlotte last year at the Wells Fargo Championship. He lost to Rickie Fowler in a three-man playoff there last week.
"I shoot 14 under last week and feel like I hit it just the same this week and I'm going home," he said.
Forget missing the cut. It's unusual enough for the Ulsterman to finish outside the top 10. Since the PGA Championship last August, McIlroy has done so only three times – finishing T-11 at the Dubai World Championship, a disappointing T-40 at the Masters and this week's trunk-slamming performance.
In six rounds at the Stadium Course, McIlroy has failed to break 70. The tee shots at Pete Dye's masterpiece seem to have him confounded.
"You really have to position your ball well off the fairway, to give yourself at least a chance to get to some of these pins," he said.
A year off from the tournament did not help. McIlroy skipped this event last year in a move partially motivated by the politics of then-agent Chubby Chandler. McIlroy anticipated doing better the third time here.
"I've come back here a much better player," he said. "I feel a much more consistent player, more experienced player. I tried to think my way around the golf course and play steady golf, but it didn't work."
McIlroy was asked Thursday how this course suits his eye. He replied with a laugh, "It doesn't."
The Players is the only event where McIlroy has missed the cut three times. The only other place the 23-year-old has missed the cut twice is the Dubai Desert Classic (2006, '08), which he won in 2009. In fact, McIlroy has won four events where he has also missed the cut – Dubai, the Hong Kong Open, the Wells Fargo Championship and the U.S. Open.
McIlroy can't yet explain why he has not cracked the code here.
"I've played golf courses in the past that haven't fit my eye and done well there," he said. "There's something about this place that I just can't quite get."
McIlroy believes things will click here eventually.
"Of course I'll come back," he said "I promise. Hopefully I'm coming back here for another 20 years. If I don't figure it out after 20 years, then there's something wrong."
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