McIlroy still struggling to find the magic

For a second competitive round in succession, Rory McIlroy was looking and sounding despondent in not being able squeeze more out of his golf on the opening day of the Players Championship.

McIlroy still struggling to find the magic

McIlroy birdied the opening two holes on each nine but let slip his good work when at five under par after 11 holes he bogeyed three of his closing seven holes in a two under par 70.

“I played pretty well for the first 11 holes, and played well pretty much the whole way around,” he said.

“But then I bogeyed two of the short par fours, the second and 12th holes, so anytime you’re thinking of maybe picking up a shot on either of those holes, I ended up bogeying both of them.”

McIlroy had only arrived into Ponte Vedra just after lunch on Wednesday and played the back nine of the Stadium course with Swede’s Jonas Blixt and David Lingmerth, and with McIlroy’s close friends Mitchell Tweedie and Ricky McCormick for company.

It was a carefree afternoon and with McIlroy in a very upbeat mode, and even trying to match the effort of Lingmerth’s caddy who actually threw a golf ball onto the green at the 17th rather than using a club in the annual Caddies Nearest to the Pin contest.

McIlroy tried to match him but his ‘pitch’ landed well short and into the water.

However less than 24 hours later McIlroy’s body language was a lot different and very much the mirror following his finish in last Sunday’s Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte.

“It’s again the competitive nature coming out in me, and what I was talking about last week at Quail Hollow because I just expect more of myself,” he said.

“A 70 here a few years ago would have been great but I’ve now figured out how to play this golf course and I should be able to play it much better than I’m doing.”

“It doesn’t frustrate me as quite as it used to. There’s a lot of low scores out there today, and 70 I feel is going to be pretty average by the end of the day.

“So I want to go out there tomorrow and shoot something a bit lower to get myself into contention going into the weekend.”

The double Major winner, sporting scratches on the right side of his face and the legacy of looking for a golf ball in bushes at the Bear’s Club on Tuesday, missed just two fairways and posted 28 putts in his round.

It was noted this week McIlroy is first in scoring over the opening round in the 2013/14 PGA Tour wraparound schedule but then he’s ranked 77th when it comes to second day averages.

However a check of his second round Sawgrass scores reveals he’s averaged 74.25.

Graeme McDowell was two over par after six holes and in contrast to his fellow US open winner played the closing dozen holes in five under par in a round of 69.

McDowell, who has missed the cut the past two years, holed an eight footer on his 18th after earlier birdies at his seventh, ninth, 11th and 12th holes.

“It was a battling day after getting off to an indifferent start as I had chances and didn’t’ take them, so to get in the clubhouse at three under is a good turnaround,” he said.

“I hit the ball pretty well but then there’s room for improvement, and I also feel as though I got a decent relationship with this golf course.

“But then I’ve had my ups and downs here, and I’ve got myself in position a few times here but I do like this golf course.”

Darren Clarke, and competing in the event for a first time since 2006, was out in the afternoon half of the draw.

American Russell Hendry led the field by two shots with a score of 65 and with a number of Europeans, including the England pair of Lee Westwood and Justin Rose along with the Spanish duo of Sergio Garcia and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano already well places with rounds of 67.

More in this section

Ireland's Top 10 Hidden Gems

Ten of the best golf courses in Ireland that too few people know about.

Read Here

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox