PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Does anyone in the upper echelon of golf throw away more strokes than Rory McIlroy?
There were positive signs this week at the Players Championship, namely a second-round 64. But the rest was more of the same -- hitting the wrong shot at the wrong time -- for the world No. 3 who has just one win (last November in Dubai) in his last 21 worldwide starts.
On Sunday, McIlroy birdied three of his first 11 holes at TPC Sawgrass to climb into the fringes of contention but gave two of them away with a water-ball bogey on the par-5 13th and another on the par-4 15th after badly pulling his tee shot into the pine straw left of the fairway and then airmailing the green on his second.
Before he even got to the reachable par 5, McIlroy had missed a 9-foot birdie putt on No. 12 and admitted he let the frustration carry over.
A week earlier at Quail Hollow he had a similar moment, getting too aggressive with his approach to the 18th on Sunday and making bogey. He ended up tying for fourth two strokes out of a playoff.
“Been a couple cases of those,” McIlroy said after a final round 2-under 70 to finish in a tie for 12th at 7-under 281.
There are times, too, he said when he needs to be more aggressive. Playing to the par-5 16th in the final round at TPC Sawgrass, he hit his second safely just left of the green -- away from the water, but nowhere near the hole. He chipped on and two-putted from 7 feet for par.
“I might not be able to win the golf tournament, but there's no reason not to go at least at the middle of the green and try and let the wind work the ball into the pin somehow,” he said. “I know it's a difficult shot, but there’s some of the shots that I feel like I need to start taking on instead of playing so safe.
“It is hard to temper (the frustration) because I feel like I'm playing good enough golf with the way I'm hitting the shots to win golf tournaments, and I haven't won a golf tournament this year. The last golf tournament I won was in Dubai in November, so it feels like a long time ago now.”
He won’t have to wait long for another crack. McIlroy’s next start comes this week at the Irish Open, followed by the Memorial tournament two weeks later, and then the U.S. Open two weeks after that.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said of the year’s next major. “Back to a nice traditional U.S. Open, not like we’re playing on the moon this year.”