July 23, 2024

After falling eight shots short of leader Wyndham Clark in the second round of the Players Championship, Rory McIlroy, a Northern Irishman, decided to go to the driving range.

After a frustrating one-over-par, 73 on Friday, Rory McIlroy chose to forego media duties and head straight to the driving range in the wake of the Players Championship second round.

Xander Schauffele and McIlroy shared the lead going into the second round at seven under, but despite his fast start, the 2019 winner was unable to sustain his momentum. The Northern Irishman had a wild start to his Friday 73, trading birdies for bogeys through his first four holes.

At the par-three third, McIlroy made a bizarre mistake by stepping away from his stance and then de-greening the next chip after appearing to leap next to his ball. That was one of those bogeys.

The 34-year-old trailed leader Wyndham Clark by eight shots going into this weekend after playing his next five holes in two over par. Clearly not one to sit back and enjoy himself, McIlroy chose to head straight to the driving range after the round rather than answer any questions, hoping to get his swing back.

Even though he still has a lot of work ahead of him, McIlroy has experience closing the gap on a sizable weekend lead. Two months prior, he won the Dubai Desert Classic after trailing by ten shots entering the third round. The four-time major champion shot an incredible nine-under 63 on moving day in Dubai, and he will definitely need a performance like that this week in Florida.

With the Masters less than a month away, McIlroy will be eager to find some form, and his signs on Thursday were encouraging. Following his tie for 21st place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational one week prior, the Northern Irishman acknowledged he had some doubts about his iron play.

He said at Bay Hill last Sunday, “It’s kind of been the same story for the last few weeks, struggling with a left miss with the irons.” “It’s challenging because the irons don’t feel as good as the longer clubs, the woods, do. It’s difficult for me to feel like I have to swing the irons and the woods in two different ways right now.”

But four days later at TPC Sawgrass, he looked back to his best and acknowledged that he felt much more at ease holding an iron. “It’s probably been one of my best days in a while, which is really nice,” McIlroy stated on Thursday. The sensation is slightly different when using the driver and the three wood, but it’s still good when using the irons.

However, as long as I tell myself while standing on the tee box, “Okay, this is a wood, and when I get on the fairway, this is an iron, and I’m experiencing two distinct sensations and thoughts, then it’s alright. Yes, today’s approach play was much, much better, which was encouraging to see.”

The stats were clear to see in Thursday’s first round, with McIlroy hitting 15 out of 18 greens in a much improved performance. Old tendencies began to creep in on Friday though, finding the putting surface with his approach on just 11 occasions, piling plenty more pressure on his short game.

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