Players ChampionshipMay 12, 2016

The root of Rory McIlroy's problems? It's not what you think

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 12: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits his shot from the 18th fairway during the first round of THE PLAYERS Championship on THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on May 12, 2016. (Photo by JD Cuban/PGA TOUR)
US PGA TOUR
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 12: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits his shot from the 18th fairway during the first round of THE PLAYERS Championship on THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on May 12, 2016. (Photo by JD Cuban/PGA TOUR)

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Rory McIlroy has a sort of love-hate relationship with TPC Sawgrass. He hated it early in his career but has come to feel it’s a well-designed golf course.

His performances in the Players have run the spectrum, too -- missed cuts in each of his first three appearances followed by three straight top-10s.

“Yeah, a little bit,” McIlroy said when asked if he’s still baffled by Pete Dye’s most famous track. “I feel with this place, once you have a little bit of momentum, you can really keep it going and get things starting to your way and you can get on a run where you make a few birdies.”

There wasn’t any in Thursday’s opening round for the 27-year-old Northern Irishman. McIlroy made two birdies and two bogeys, including one at the 16th after finding the water with his second shot into the par 5, and shot even-par 72 to sit nine strokes off the lead.

“It was just one of those days where it was sort of in neutral,” he said. “I couldn't really get it going much at all.”

Many have pointed to McIlroy’s putting as a problem. His wedge play, though, has been a far bigger culprit. He ranks 170th on the PGA Tour from 100-125 yards and is 165th from 125-150 yards.

Thursday's results weren't any different. Of McIlroy's 10 approach shots from 150 yards or closer, only two landed inside of 15 feet and most settled a lot farther from the flag. He made birdie on one of the two, rolling in a six-footer on the par-3 17th.

“Distance control's been off,” McIlroy said. “I've been hitting some short, hitting some long. I feel like there's quite a bit of disparity between a three-quarter shot and a full shot and, yeah, probably something I need to work on a little bit.”


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