PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Rory McIlroy is making a nasty habit of getting off to slow starts. Fortunately for him, he's got more than enough firepower to get back into contention.
After a disappointing even-par 72 to begin the Players, McIlroy came out firing on Friday. A record-tying 29 on the back nine to start his day vaulted the four-time major champ to within of two shots of the lead.
Not that we should be too surprised. McIlroy has historically owned the inward nine of TPC Sawgrass' Stadium Course. In the past three years, he's 36 under par total on that side compared to a dreadful 12 over on the front. Turns out he just needed to start on No. 10 to get his tournament going.
McIlroy started with four consecutive birdies. Then after a par on No. 14 (not sure what happened there), McIlroy birdied 15 and eagled 16, dropping a 60-footer from the fringe to draw a huge roar from the gallery. He nearly brought the Stadium Course crowd into utter delirium on 17, but his long birdie attempt came up an inch short.
McIlroy two-putted from the fringe on 18 to match the 29 shot by Shane Lowry on the back nine on Thursday. He opened with 40 at the Wells Fargo Championship a week ago, but rallied to finish T-4.
Jason Day dominated Thursday's headlines with an statement-making 63 to dust the other two members of golf's Big 3, McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, by nine shots. McIlroy's response -- at least, so far -- has been pretty strong.
UPDATE: McIlroy shot a one-under 35 on the front nine to shoot 64. A bogey on the par-5 ninth kept him from matching or breaking the course record.