PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — This was not the title defense Rory McIlroy had in mind for this week’s Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
McIlroy, the 2019 winner of the tournament, which was canceled after one round last year because of COVID-19, missed the cut after shooting 10-over for the past two days — a 79 on Thursday and a 75 Friday.
After his round, McIlroy, always among the most transparent athletes in any sport, conceded he might have messed up his swing in an attempt to chase Bryson DeChambeau and his new-found length.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t anything to do with what Bryson did at the U.S. Open,’’ McIlroy said. “I think a lot of people saw that and were like, ‘Whoa, if this is the way they’re going to set golf courses up in the future, it helps.’
“The one thing that people don’t appreciate is how good Bryson is out of the rough,’’ McIlroy said. “Not only because of how upright he is, but because his short irons are longer than standard, so he can get a little more speed through the rough than us, than other guys. I thought being able to get some more speed is a good thing, and I maybe just … to the detriment a little bit of my swing. I got there, but I just need to maybe rein it back in a little bit.’’
Asked what he’s most “frustrated’’ with about his game, McIlroy said: “Probably the swing issues and where it all stems from, probably like October last year, doing a little bit of speed training, started getting sucked into that stuff. The swing got flat, long, and too rotational.
“Obviously, I added some speed and am hitting the ball longer, but what that did to my swing as a whole probably wasn’t a good thing, so I’m sort of fighting to get back out of that. That’s what I’m frustrated with.’’
There were two holes-in-one Friday. Denny McCarthy jarred a 165-yard 8-iron on the par-3 third hole. It was the fifth-ever ace in tournament play on No. 3. Brendon Todd holed a 213-yard 5-wood on the par-3 eighth hole, the seventh all-time on the hole.
When Jordan Spieth carded a double bogey on the 14th hole, it ended a streak of 411 holes he had played in competition without anything worse than a bogey.
The two active leaders in making the most cuts in a row both bowed out Friday. Xander Schauffele, who had made 23 consecutive cuts, and Viktor Hovland, who’d made 22 in a row, both missed the cut. Now Jon Rahm, with 19 consecutive cuts made, has the longest streak.
Phil Mickelson, who had missed the cut in six of his previous seven Players Championships, is 1-under and tied for 36th entering the weekend.
Play was suspended because of darkness with eight players who still have to complete their second round Saturday morning.