Rory McIlroy dismisses drop debate as he shares Players lead

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There was a lengthy discussion with playing partners Viktor Hovland and Jordan Spieth after McIlroy found water at the seventh.
Posted on
March 14, 2024
The Editorial Team in ,
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Rory McIlroy insisted his conscience was clear after shrugging off a lengthy debate over a penalty drop to claim a share of the clubhouse lead on day one of the Players Championship.

Having started from the 10th at TPC Sawgrass, McIlroy looked set to lead outright when he covered his first 15 holes in eight under par, only to pull his tee shot on the seventh into the water.

It was not clear where the ball had bounced before entering the hazard and that led to a near 10-minute discussion with playing partners Viktor Hovland and Jordan Spieth, who appeared to question the location of McIlroy’s drop.

McIlroy eventually hit his third shot short of the green and ran up a double-bogey six, but made his 10th birdie of the day on the par-five ninth to match the seven-under, bogey-free 65 of Olympic champion Xander Schauffele.

“I think Jordan [Spieth] was just trying to make sure that I was doing the right thing,” McIlroy told reporters after the round.

“I was pretty sure that my ball had crossed where I was sort of dropping it. It’s so hard, right, because there was no TV evidence.

“If anything I was being conservative with it. I think at the end of the day we’re all trying to protect ourselves, protect the field, as well.

“I was adamant, but I guess I started to doubt myself a little bit. I was like, ‘OK, did I actually see what I thought I saw?’. It is a bit of a [television] blind spot. I think the best view was from the tee, which was the view that we had.”

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy points to near where his shot went into the water on the 18th hole during the first round of the Players Championship (Lynne Sladky/AP)

Hovland and Spieth chose not to speak to the media after rounds of 73 and 74 respectively, but McIlroy – who faced a similar drop situation on the 18th – was asked if everyone in the group had been comfortable with the outcome.

“I think so, yeah,” McIlroy added. “I’m comfortable. I think that’s the most important thing.

“I feel like I’m one of the most conscientious golfers out here, so if I feel like I’ve done something wrong, it’ll play on my conscience for the rest of the tournament.

“I’m a big believer in karma and if you do something wrong, I feel like it’s going to come around and bite you at some point.

“I obviously don’t try to do anything wrong out there, and play by the rules and do the right thing. I feel like I obviously did that those two drops.

New Zealand’s Ryan Fox had earlier made history as the first man to follow an eagle on the 16th with a hole-in-one on the 17th.

Fox holed from inside three feet for eagle on the 16th and then saw his tee shot on the next pitch around 10 feet beyond the pin and spin back into the hole.

Fox eventually carded a three-under-par 69, while England’s Tommy Fleetwood returned a 70 which included five birdies and a triple-bogey on the seventh.

The first round was suspended at 7:32 p.m. ET due to darkness with nine players left to complete the round.

Pos.PlayerTo ParThruR1Total
T1Xander Schauffele-7F65-7
T1Rory McIlroy-7F65-7
T1Wyndham Clark-7F65-7
T4Nick Taylor-6F66-6
T4Matt Fitzpatrick-6F66-6
T6Tom Hoge-5F67-5
T6Jason Day-5F67-5
T6Ludvig Åberg-5F67-5
T6Scottie Scheffler-5F67-5
T6Tyler Duncan-5F67-5
T6Maverick McNealy-5F67-5
T6Jimmy Stanger-516--5
T13Taylor Montgomery-4F68-4
T13Michael Kim-4F68-4
T13Sepp Straka-4F68-4
T13Nate Lashley-4F68-4
T13Matti Schmid-4F68-4
T13Mark Hubbard-4F68-4
T13Max Homa-4F68-4
T13Corey Conners-4F68-4
T13Chris Kirk-4F68-4
T22Christiaan Bezuidenhout-3F69-3
T22Lee Hodges-3F69-3
T22Emiliano Grillo-3F69-3
T22C.T. Pan-3F69-3
T22Ryan Fox-3F69-3
T22Byeong Hun An-3F69-3
T22Keith Mitchell-3F69-3
T22Dylan Wu-3F69-3
T22Hideki Matsuyama-3F69-3
T22J.T. Poston-3F69-3
T22Harris English-3F69-3
T22Tony Finau-3F69-3
T22Luke List-3F69-3
T22Andrew Putnam-3F69-3
T22Chan Kim-316--3
T37Ryan Moore-2F70-2
T37Si Woo Kim-2F70-2
T37Kurt Kitayama-2F70-2
T37Tommy Fleetwood-2F70-2
T37Adam Scott-2F70-2
T37Justin Rose-2F70-2
T37Sungjae Im-2F70-2
T37Martin Laird-2F70-2
T37Ryo Hisatsune-2F70-2
T37Peter Malnati-2F70-2
T37Alex Smalley-2F70-2
T37Sam Ryder-2F70-2
T37Matthieu Pavon-2F70-2
T37Gary Woodland-2F70-2
T37Cameron Young-2F70-2
T37Sahith Theegala-2F70-2
T37Mackenzie Hughes-2F70-2
T37Eric Cole-216--2
T37David Skinns-216--2
T56Carson Young-1F71-1
T56Aaron Rai-1F71-1
T56Alex Noren-1F71-1
T56Thomas Detry-1F71-1
T56Adam Schenk-1F71-1
T56Brice Garnett-1F71-1
T56Billy Horschel-1F71-1
T56Erik van Rooyen-1F71-1
T56Justin Lower-1F71-1
T56Tyson Alexander-1F71-1
T56Doug Ghim-1F71-1
T56Hayden Buckley-1F71-1
T56Beau Hossler-1F71-1
T56Denny McCarthy-1F71-1
T56Jake Knapp-1F71-1
T56Justin Thomas-1F71-1
T56Collin Morikawa-1F71-1
T56Shane Lowry-1F71-1
T56Austin Eckroat-1F71-1
T56Ben Martin-116--1
T76Steve StrickerEF72E
T76Patrick CantlayEF72E
T76Taylor MooreEF72E
T76Keegan BradleyEF72E
T76Ben SilvermanEF72E
T76Patrick RodgersEF72E
T76Stephan JaegerEF72E
T76Seamus PowerEF72E
T76Francesco MolinariEF72E
T76Brian HarmanEF72E
T76J.J. SpaunEF72E
T76Akshay BhatiaEF72E
T88Zac Blair+1F731
T88Troy Merritt+1F731
T88Ben Taylor+1F731
T88Min Woo Lee+1F731
T88Camilo Villegas+1F731
T88Chad Ramey+1F731
T88Sam Burns+1F731
T88Viktor Hovland+1F731
T88Russell Henley+1F731
T88Webb Simpson+1F731
T88David Lipsky+1F731
T88Matt NeSmith+1F731
T88Nicolai Højgaard+1F731
T88Grayson Murray+1F731
T88Matt Wallace+1F731
T88Nico Echavarria+1F731
T88Will Zalatoris+1F731
T88Garrick Higgo+1F731
T88Ben Griffin+1F731
T88Sam Stevens+115-1
T88Sami Valimaki+115-1
T109Carl Yuan+2F742
T109Joel Dahmen+2F742
T109Matt Kuchar+2F742
T109Chez Reavie+2F742
T109Jordan Spieth+2F742
T109Scott Stallings+2F742
T109Brendon Todd+2F742
T109Robert MacIntyre+2F742
T109Kevin Yu+2F742
T109Nick Hardy+2F742
T109Adam Svensson+2F742
T109Rickie Fowler+2F742
T109Davis Riley+2F742
T109S.H. Kim+2F742
T109Andrew Novak+2F742
T109Aaron Baddeley+2F742
T109Charley Hoffman+215-2
T126Chesson Hadley+3F753
T126Taylor Pendrith+3F753
T126Brandon Wu+3F753
T126Lucas Glover+3F753
T126K.H. Lee+3F753
T126Adam Hadwin+3F753
T126Greyson Sigg+3F753
T126Davis Thompson+3F753
T126Callum Tarren+3F753
T135Justin Suh+4F764
T135Harry Hall+416-4
T137Joseph Bramlett+5F775
T137Vincent Norrman+5F775
T137Kevin Streelman+5F775
T137Nick Dunlap+5F775
141Cam Davis+7F797
T142Robby Shelton+8F808
T142Ben Kohles+8F808
W/DTom Kim----
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