McIlroy gets sinking feeling in nightmare 79 at Players Championship

By Sports Desk March 11, 2021

Rory McIlroy had a quadruple-bogey eight on his card as the former world number one endured a shocking start to his title defence at The Players Championship.

The Northern Irishman finished his first round on a seven-over-par 79, with two balls at the bottom of a lake, and facing a huge battle to make the cut.

McIlroy began on the back nine and made an immediate double bogey, but the round got worse when he sent two balls into the giant expanse of water to the left of the fairway at the 18th.

The four-time major winner gave himself a chance from close range to limit the damage to three shots, but McIlroy could not sink the putt.

Having also dropped a shot at the 13th hole - his fourth - it meant McIlroy reached the turn in seven-over-par 43.

He picked up shots at the first and second to get back to five over, but further damage to his scorecard at the next two holes saw the 31-year-old return to seven over.

A third three-putt of the round at that fourth hole summed up McIlroy's misery, and although he soon picked up another shot and began to play steadily, more putting peril at the ninth, his final hole, inflicted yet more damage.

McIlroy was not alone in sending balls into the water.

England's Paul Casey took seven at the 17th, the famous three-par island hole at Sawgrass, after going into the drink both off the tee and from the drop zone.

That outcome saw Casey plunge from two under par to two over, but he steadied himself and finished with a one-over 73.

Henrik Stenson had an even worse day than his fellow European Ryder Cup stars, with an 85 from Sweden's former Open champion featuring two double bogeys and two triples and three balls in the water.

While McIlroy, Casey and Stenson ran into trouble, Sergio Garcia led the way as he secured the clubhouse lead with a sparkling seven-under 65, the Spaniard with a pair of eagles in his round.

This tournament was called off after the first round last year due to the developing COVID-19 crisis, with McIlroy the most recent champion in 2019, when he edged out Jim Furyk by one shot.

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