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McIlroy, Schauffele share early lead at 2024 Players Championship

McIlroy, Schauffele share early lead at 2024 Players Championship

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The opening round of the 50th Players Championship turned into a birdie-fest, and no one made more than Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman carded 10 birdies in all but tugged two drives into the water that resulted in a 7-under 65 and dashed his hopes of a course-record tying round at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on Thursday.

“It would’ve been nice to shoot 62 and not hit two in the water,” McIlroy said.

His score was matched by Xander Schauffele, who managed a few heroics of his own to keep bogey off the card and shoot a 7-under 65 to share the early lead at the PGA Tour’s flagship event.

After a final-round 76 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday, McIlroy seethed at his poor play, which sent him tumbling to a T-21 finish.

“Last day at Bay Hill was a bit of a wake-up call,” McIlroy said.

Instead of taking Monday off, he spent five hours on the range cleaning up his technique and figuring out a swing flaw. But doing it on the practice tee is one thing – doing it under the heat of competition is another. At No. 10, McIlroy’s first hole of the day he faced a pin tucked left, the very shot he said he has struggled with this season, and wedged from 110 yards to 5 feet. He received further confirmation two holes later, when he hit a knock-down shot from 64 yards to 4 feet.

“That could’ve been the best shot of my day, something I’ve really struggled with the past couple of weeks,” he said.

Players: Leaderboard, tee times, hole-by-hole

On a warm, sunny day with barely a breath of wind, McIlroy took advantage of receptive greens, making birdie on the first three holes of the day and six of the first eight before pulling his tee shot into the water at 18 and making bogey. He did the same thing at No. 7, by which time he had reached 8 under for the day, which resulted in a double bogey. There was a lengthy discussion over McIlroy’s drop after the tee shot at seven bounced on land and into the water.

Fellow competitors Viktor Hovland and Jordan Spieth argued that McIlroy’s ball bounced below the red line marking the penalty area and that he should drop farther back than where McIlroy was considering his drop. McIlroy was adamant that he saw the ball land above the red line. But he ended up dropping farther back, closer to where Spieth and Hovland contended he should.

“He was just trying to make sure that I was going to do the right thing,” McIlroy said of Spieth’s involvement in…


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