10 surprising golfers who missed the cut at the 2023 Players Championship 

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy on Saturday after his tee shot on the 18th hole at TPC Sawgrass.

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At least he got a haircut. 

Rory McIlroy admitted on Saturday he needed one. The cabbage was popping out some from beneath his hat. So at some point between rounds one and two at TPC Sawgrass, he was cleaned up. 

“The haircut, yeah, I needed one,” McIlroy said. “That’s all there is to it.”

This is a golf site, though. And the news on that front is unsightly. The world No. 3 shot rounds of four-over 76 and one-over 73 at the Players Championship, and he’ll play no more this week. McIlroy missed the cut three shots. 

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“Yeah, just very blah,” he said. “Yeah, I guess the course, you just have to be really on to play well here. If you’re a little off, it definitely magnifies where you are off. It is — it’s a bit of an enigma. Some years I come here, and like it feels easier than others.

“It’s just a tricky golf course, and you don’t hit fairways and you’ve got your work cut out for you.”

Notably, no one thing did in McIlroy. It was a host. There were blow-up holes — he had three double bogeys. He struggled off the tee — in the first round, he was 88th (-0.649) in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee. He struggled around the green — in the round one, he was 142nd (-3.048) in SG: Around the Green, and in the second, he was 126th (-1.220). He struggled with his putting — he was 137th (-2.594) and 91st (-0.490), respectively.

And he was done. McIlroy leads our list of the 10 surprising golfers who missed the cut at the Players Championship. Below are the rest. 

10. Max McGreevy 

What he shot: 69, 89 (+14) 

Surprising because: Twenty-shot swings are tough to do.

9. Nico Echavarria

What he shot: 71, 79 (+6) 

Surprising because: TPC Sawgrass does not care if you’re in form, part III. Last week, Echavarria won the Puerto Rico Open. Now he’s going home, too. Two double bogeys and three bogeys on the front nine during the second round were his undoing. 

8. Chris Kirk

What he shot: 73, 75 (+4)

Surprising because: TPC Sawgrass does not care if you’re in form, part II. Two weeks ago, Kirk won the Honda Classic. Now he’s also going home. Kirk had been trending to make the cut, then played his final seven holes at four-over. 

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7. Kurt Kitayama 

What he shot: 73, 76 (+5)

Surprising because: TPC Sawgrass does not care if you’re in form, part I. Last week, Kitayama won the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Now he’s going home. A front-nine 41 during the first round was disastrous for Kitayama. 

6. Matt Kuchar 

What he shot: 70, 78 (+4)

Surprising because: The 2012 champion is done. Kuchar shot two-under in the first round, but a stretch of six bogeys over 13 holes during the second round was too much to overcome. 

5. Webb Simpson 

What he shot: 76, 76 (+8)

Surprising because: The 2018 winner is gone. Simpson made just two birdies over his two rounds. 

4. Billy Horschel 

What he shot: 73, 79 (+9)

Surprising because: Horschel’s the world No. 22. He’s a Florida native. He’s missed just two cuts in 10 Players appearances. He played his first nine holes at three-under. Then played the rest at 11-over. 

3. Keegan Bradley

What he shot: 70, 78 (+4) 

Surprising because: He appeared on GOLF’s Drop Zone podcast ahead of the tournament, and that should guarantee success. But a couple of big numbers during the second round — a quadruple-bogey eight on 18 and a double-bogey six on 4 — doomed him. 

2. Matt Fitzpatrick 

What he shot: 76, 71 (+3)

Surprising because: Fitzpatrick’s the defending U.S. Open champion. He’s the 12th-ranked player in the world. He’s had four top 20s in seven events this season. He’s a Netflix star! He’s gone. A 40 on the back nine during the first round did him in. 

1. Rory McIlroy

What he shot: 76, 73 (+5)

Surprising because: See above. He’ll have to flush this quickly, as the Masters approaches. 

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