Rory McIlroy surged into Players Championship contention at TPC Sawgrass last night but he was left cursing the ninth hole after spurning a shot at a course-record 62 there.
Starting the day at level par having felt he got the worst of the weather with a late first-round tee time on Thursday, McIlroy set about his second round from the 10th tee like a man possessed, matching Shane Lowry’s opening-day back-nine 29 in superb fashion as he eagled the par-five 16th, his seventh, by holing a 53-foot putt.
By the time the world number three reached his last hole, the par-five ninth, he had accumulated seven birdies in addition to the eagle and needed just one more to card a new course record of 62.
The Irishman would sign instead for a 64 having surprisingly laid up with his second shot and then missed the green from 90 yards out with his third. It got worse for McIlroy as sent in a poor chip on the way to his only bogey of the round.
It left the four-time major champion on eight under par and safely in the clubhouse as play was later suspended due to lightning with 18-hole leader Jason Day, who on Thursday matched the TPC Sawgrass Stadium course record of 63, maintaining his lead at 12 under par with eight holes played.
World number one Day was two shots ahead of Jonas Blixt of Sweden, and Germany’s Alex Cejka, both of whom carded 67s to get to 10 under, with Cameron Tringale on the same mark having played 13 holes.
American Colt Knost was a further shot back on nine under having bettered McIlroy’s score with a 63, he too falling short of a 62 havng three-putted his last, the 18th. He was tied for fifth with compatriot Boo Weekley, who posted a 69, with Lowry also on nine under having played 11.
Lowry had started his second round two behind the overnight lead following an opening 65 but had bogeyed the 14th, birdied the 16th and then splashed his tee shot at the famous par-three island hole 17th. The Offaly golfer, world number 36, redeemed himself in admirable style, however, claiming an eagle of his own as he holed out at the last, his ninth, with his approach shot from 120 yards and then birdied the par-five second to move to nine under.
While Lowry will take positive vibes from the ninth, McIlroy was a little bewildered about it after failing there with his conservative approach.
“I’ve got it in my head with the ninth hole that any time that I have gone for the green it has not really worked out for me,” he said. “I had a good number today and laid up with a nine iron.
“I probably had two iron to the front of the green. In hindsight, with that pin being on the left side, anywhere on the right I probably had a chance to get up and down. I thought get it within 100 yards and take my chances from there and I just didn’t hit a great third shot and left myself in a difficult position.
“I was going well and it would have been nice to make a four on the last, but 64 is still a great score and hopefully I’m not going to be too far behind going into the weekend. I hit a lot of quality shots today. I feel like my game has been under control the last four rounds so hopefully I can continue like that over the weekend.”
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