Rory McIlroy makes poor start at Players Championship to lie 12 shots off lead

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Chad Ramey’s 64 was just one short of equalling the course record.
Posted on
March 9, 2023
The Editorial Team in ,
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

A wayward Rory McIlroy endured a dreadful start at the Players Championship after an opening four-over-par round of 76 at TPC Sawgrass left him 12 shots off the early lead.

The Northern Irishman was the odd man out in the marquee group of the first two rounds as Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler, the only two players ahead of him in the world rankings, both finished under par.

However, only Scheffler would be have been happy with his four-under 68 – Rahm finished one under – but that was still four adrift of the early leader Chad Ramey, a second-year PGA Tour professional and Players’ debutant whose 64 was just one short of equalling the course record.

Two-time major winner Collin Morikawa was another who showed low scoring was possible as his bogey-free round of five birdies and an eagle left him one off the pace.

But McIlroy could not take advantage of the same conditions as he began with a double-bogey six, ended with bogey six with three further bogeys and only two birdies in between.

Even when he did manage to get himself in position, producing some magic from under the trees at the par-five 16th, his seventh hole, but he three-putted to squander the eagle opportunity.

The Northern Irishman struggled off the tee, hitting just six of 14 fairways, and that caused him problems and he faces a real battle to stay in the tournament on Friday.

“You’ve got the four par-fives which are very gettable, and then you’ve got a few other holes, four and 12 specifically, so you’ve got six really gettable ones that if you’re on your game, you should be making birdie on those,” said McIlroy, the 2019 champion.

“I feel like this is as penal as I’ve seen it out of the rough for a long time. I think you’d have to go back to when the tournament was played in May, when we were in Bermuda rough, for it to be as penal as that.

“The three-putt on 16 was probably the one that sort of stopped any momentum.

“I hit a really good shot out of the pine straw there and didn’t capitalise on that and after making bogey on one and three sort of was tough to get it back from there.”

World number two Scheffler, who finished with three birdies in his final four holes, insisted outscoring his playing partners was not in his mindset and the quest to regain top spot in the rankings was a distant second to winning this week.

“I felt like I didn’t have my best stuff. I made a bunch of pars on the front nine but I’m proud of how I finished,” he said.

“I just kept plodding along and fortunately I saw some putts go in

“I wouldn’t want to get back to number one by finishing second in this tournament, the goal is to go out and try to win it.”

Jon Rahm plays out of a bunker
Jon Rahm felt he missed a few chances in his first round (Eric Gay/AP)

Rahm’s birdie putt at the ninth, his final hole, lipped out and he felt that was symptomatic of his round.

“It felt like a slap in the face on a day that,” said the Spaniard.

“I hit a lot of putts and just kept burning edges to go to one that looked like it was going in. It’s just what it is. It’s golf.”

Ramey, the 30-year-old from Mississippi whose only PGA Tour win came a year ago in his maiden season, had six birdies in his first 11 holes but turned on the style at the end as he birdied the par-five 16th and then hit it to a foot at the famous 17th to take the outright lead.

Morikawa missed a six-footer at the ninth, his last, to join Ramey but was happy with his round.

“Last week I kind of lost it, I didn’t know where the ball was going and I think this score showed I knew where the ball was going and that gave me a lot of freedom to play golf,” he told Sky Sports.

Fellow American Hayden Buckley became only the 10th player since 1991 to have a hole-in-one at Sawgrass’ penultimate 125-yard hole – hitting a wedge beyond the pin and spinning it back into the cup.

However, Min Woo Lee, who had been suffering from cramp on his back nine, had an entirely different experience at the hole on his tournament debut.

He arrived holding the lead at six under but he hit his tee shot into the lake surrounding the green and only managed to escape with a bogey courtesy of a brilliant pitch shot from the drop zone.

The Australian then flirted with the water at the last before missing a 10-footer for par at the last to drop to four under.

England’s Justin Rose recovered from bogeying his second hole – his only dropped shot – to post a three-under 69, while the 2022 champion Justin Thomas chipped in for eagle at the second to move to two under.

Pos.PlayerThruTo ParR1
1Chad RameyF-864
2Collin MorikawaF-765
T3Taylor PendrithF-567
T3Ben GriffinF-567
T3Justin Suh15-5-
T6Min Woo LeeF-468
T6Denny McCarthyF-468
T6Christiaan BezuidenhoutF-468
T6Adam SvenssonF-468
T6Scottie SchefflerF-468
T6Sam BurnsF-468
T12Si Woo KimF-369
T12Cam DavisF-369
T12Justin RoseF-369
T12Nate LashleyF-369
T12Viktor HovlandF-369
T12Lucas GloverF-369
T12Jordan SpiethF-369
T19Davis ThompsonF-270
T19Taylor MontgomeryF-270
T19Emiliano GrilloF-270
T19Harrison EndycottF-270
T19Jason DayF-270
T19Garrick HiggoF-270
T19Matt KucharF-270
T19Sahith TheegalaF-270
T19Keegan BradleyF-270
T19Ryan Palmer17-2-
T19Taylor Moore16-2-
T19Wyndham Clark16-2-
T19Max McGreevy15-2-
T32Kevin StreelmanF-171
T32Byeong Hun AnF-171
T32Brendon ToddF-171
T32Trey MullinaxF-171
T32Jon RahmF-171
T32Nico EchavarriaF-171
T32Mark HubbardF-171
T32Adam HadwinF-171
T32Ben MartinF-171
T32Chesson HadleyF-171
T32Cameron YoungF-171
T32Scott StallingsF-171
T32Alex Smalley17-1-
T32Davis Riley16-1-
T32Scott Piercy16-1-
T32Joseph Bramlett15-1-
T32Dylan Wu14-1-
T49Robby SheltonFPar72
T49Danny WillettFPar72
T49Tommy FleetwoodFPar72
T49Keith MitchellFPar72
T49Tyrrell HattonFPar72
T49Kevin KisnerFPar72
T49Patrick CantlayFPar72
T49Adam ScottFPar72
T49Rickie FowlerFPar72
T49J.J. SpaunFPar72
T49Russell HenleyFPar72
T49Matt WallaceFPar72
T49Peter MalnatiFPar72
T49David LingmerthFPar72
T49Stewart CinkFPar72
T49Chez ReavieFPar72
T49Xander SchauffeleFPar72
T49Max HomaFPar72
T49Gary WoodlandFPar72
T49Ryan BrehmFPar72
T49Ryan ArmourFPar72
T49Sam Ryder16Par-
T49Dylan Frittelli16Par-
T72Austin SmothermanF+173
T72Brandon WuF+173
T72Hayden BuckleyF+173
T72Callum TarrenF+173
T72Tony FinauF+173
T72Tyler DuncanF+173
T72Joel DahmenF+173
T72Billy HorschelF+173
T72Brian HarmanF+173
T72Patrick RodgersF+173
T72Aaron BaddeleyF+173
T72Eric ColeF+173
T72Andrew PutnamF+173
T72Kramer HickokF+173
T72Will GordonF+173
T72Francesco MolinariF+173
T72Kurt KitayamaF+173
T72Justin ThomasF+173
T72K.H. LeeF+173
T72Chris KirkF+173
T72James Hahn15+1-
T72Erik Barnes14+1-
T94Nick TaylorF+274
T94Tom KimF+274
T94Hideki MatsuyamaF+274
T94Ryan FoxF+274
T94Troy MerrittF+274
T94Greyson SiggF+274
T94Maverick McNealyF+274
T94Adam SchenkF+274
T94Stephan JaegerF+274
T94Justin LowerF+274
T94Sepp StrakaF+274
T94Will ZalatorisF+274
T94Seamus PowerF+274
T94Jerry Kelly16+2-
T94Aaron Rai14+2-
T109Adam LongF+375
T109Corey ConnersF+375
T109Mackenzie HughesF+375
T109Sungjae ImF+375
T109Kevin TwayF+375
T109Russell KnoxF+375
T109Matthias SchwabF+375
T109J.T. PostonF+375
T109Patton Kizzire17+3-
T118Webb SimpsonF+476
T118Rory McIlroyF+476
T118David LipskyF+476
T118Lee HodgesF+476
T118Beau HosslerF+476
T118Matt FitzpatrickF+476
T118Martin LairdF+476
T118Alex Noren16+4-
T118Nick Watney15+4-
T127Matthew NeSmithF+577
T127Michael ThompsonF+577
T127Luke ListF+577
T127Nick HardyF+577
T127S.H. KimF+577
T127Tyson AlexanderF+577
T127Shane LowryF+577
T127Thomas Detry15+5-
T127Andrew Novak15+5-
T136Robert StrebF+678
T136Harris EnglishF+678
T136Jhonattan VegasF+678
T136Doc RedmanF+678
T136Tom HogeF+678
T141Doug GhimF+880
T141Kelly KraftF+880
T141Aaron WiseF+880
144Lucas HerbertF+1082
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The Players Championship 2023

Date: March 9th - 12th 2023

Location: TPC Sawgrass (Stadium Course), Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

Purse: $25,000,000

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