Wednesday 21 February 2018

Another bitter-sweet round for battling McIlroy at Sawgrass

Rory McIlroy walks on the seventh hole during the third round of THE PLAYERS Championship on the stadium course at TPC Sawgrass.
Rory McIlroy walks on the seventh hole during the third round of THE PLAYERS Championship on the stadium course at TPC Sawgrass.

Rory McIlroy could be forgiven for having a love-hate relationship with Sawgrass after completing his third round in the £6million Players Championship on Saturday.

McIlroy produced a battling finish just to avoid a fourth missed cut in five appearances in the event, although scraping through on the mark of level par left the 25-year-old 12 shots behind halfway leader and Ryder Cup team-mate Martin Kaymer, who added a 69 to his course record-equalling 63 in the opening round.

It also meant an early start for McIlroy on Saturday and he again struggled on the front nine, making a bogey on the first, double bogey on the fourth and a bogey on the sixth before birdies on the seventh and eighth took him to the turn in 38.

As on Friday, the back nine came to the former world number one's rescue and birdies on the 10th, 11th, 16th, 17th and 18th ensured a round of 69 and three-under-par total.

So far this week, McIlroy has taken 117 strokes on the front nine and 96 on the back nine, a difference of 21 shots at an average of seven per day.

Starting from the 10th in his opening round, the two-time major winner was five under par after 11 holes before three late bogeys, while he covered the front nine in 42 on Friday before rallying with vital birdies on the 12th, 13th, 16th and 18th.

McIlroy was finished hours before the leaders were due out, Kaymer holding a one-shot lead over American sensation Jordan Spieth, who is the only player in the field not to record a bogey in the first 36 holes.

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