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Few things can spoil the good feeling that comes with shooting 64 but making a bogey with a chance to set a course record is one.
And that's precisely what happened to Rory McIlroy on Friday at The Players.
McIlroy came to the par-5 ninth, his final hole in Round 2, at TPC Sawgrass facing a simple proposition: If he could birdie, he would become the first player to break 63 in championship history. And he'd do it a day after world No. 1 and principal target Jason Day shot 63 to tie the competitive course record.
The four-time major winner, who tied Shane Lowry's day-old tournament record by playing the second nine in 7-under 29, could have gone for the green in two and taken his chances at getting up-and-down for birdie, but McIlroy chose instead to lay up. He'd had bad luck with the grassy moguls to the right of the green, so he wanted to put a wedge in his hand. Unfortunately for McIlroy, he's among the worst on the PGA Tour in proximity to the hole with a wedge. From 80 yards, McIlroy missed the green. He didn't get up-and-down for par, instead making a frustrating closing bogey.
“A few guys have shot 63 here, it would have been nice to shoot 62,” McIlroy said.
And so there's still never been a round of 62 or better in a major championship or the unofficial fifth major.
“I'm frustrated," he said. "It should have been a couple better.”
It could have been, yes, but there's some solace that McIlroy played eight shots better on Friday that he did in similar friendly conditions on Thursday. He's now at 8-under 136, which, most Players weeks, would have him in great position. However, since the first two rounds have offered the best scoring at the Players since 1993, 8 under is not a good score. McIlroy goes to sleep six shots behind Day, who has four holes left to finish on Saturday morning. It's the kind of situation McIlroy was hoping to avoid when he walked off the course as Day was preparing to start Round 2.
"I'm in a good position heading into the weekend, but it really depends on what the guys do this afternoon," McIlroy said. "Hopefully, I'm still not too far behind going into the weekend.”
That's not looking likely, meaning McIlroy will need at least one more round like the one he shot on Friday to have a chance.
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