Rory McIlroy trails Wyndham Clark by 8 shots after rollercoaster Players round

Rory McIlroy trails Wyndham Clark by 8 shots after rollercoaster Players round

Rollercoaster Rory.

That is the only way to describe Rory McIlroy’s second round at The Players Championship.

Consider this: McIlroy’s first par of the day came at the challenging par-4 7th hole, which involved a heroic escape from the pine straw.

His first six holes featured three bogies and three birdies, as McIlroy could not steady the ship, unlike his first round on Thursday.

McIlroy waltzed around TPC Sawgrass the day before, setting a Players Championship record with 10 birdies. He ultimately carded a 7-under 65, tying Xander Schauffele and Wyndham Clark atop the leaderboard after 18 holes.

Twenty-four hours later, McIlroy finds himself eight shots behind Clark, who signed for another 65 on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Northern Irishman shot a disappointing 1-over 73, which featured another water ball on the back nine.

After missing an 11-footer for birdie on the par-5 11th, a frustrated McIlroy sat at 8-under for the championship. He pulled out the driver on the par-4 12th, which has water down the left side and measures only 375 yards.

Instead of finding the putting surface, like he did at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, a familiar miss reared its ugly head. McIlroy missed the green left, pulling his tee shot into the water—similar to how he did on the 18th and 7th holes on Thursday. The latter sparked a minor controversy with Jordan Spieth and Viktor Hovland, which was the highlight of the day among golf fans.

Rory McIlroy, The Players Championship

Rory McIlroy hits a tee shot during the second round of the 2024 Players Championship.
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

That errant tee shot at 12 on Friday led to another bogey, which dropped him back to even on the day and 7-under for the championship.

But the rollercoaster ride was not finished.

He bounced back with a nice birdie at 13, which played more difficult than usual thanks to a tucked pin position on the right-hand side of the green.

As such, he quickly jumped back up to 8-under. But he came crashing back down with a double bogey at the par-4 14th, the second most difficult hole so far this week.

McIlroy found the bunker to the left of the fairway on 14, which forced him to lay up to a spot 106 yards out. He then made a mess of things from there, flubbing his third shot to 46 feet short of the back left pin. McIlroy then three-putted for a six.

Two holes later, at the par-5 16th, the Ulsterman missed left off the tee again, thus squandering an opportunity at an easy birdie.

And then, McIlroy had an easy birdie look at the famous island green but squandered that opportunity too. He hit a terrific shot into the 17th—one of the best of the day—but he could not convert, with the range of emotions felt there serving as a metaphor for his entire second round.

The four-time major champion sits at 6-under through 36 holes and will need to make a big move on Saturday to soar back into contention.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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