Defending Players champ Rory McIlroy off to disastrous start at TPC Sawgrass

Rory McIlroy looks for his ball off the 10th fairway on Thursday.

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Rory McIlroy held the title as defending Players champ for an extra year after the 2020 edition was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but McIlroy is already in big trouble on the first morning of his defense.

McIlroy, starting on the back nine at TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course, opened with a double bogey after he drove it left into a hazard on 10. A three-putt on 13 also led to a bogey, but his biggest miscue came on the difficult par-4 18th.

One of the hardest closing holes on Tour, the 18th plays to a narrow fairway that bends around a lake. McIlroy over-cooked his draw off the tee and found the water, dropped in front of the tee box and hit it into the lake again. His fifth shot was from 209 yards out and found the green, but he three-putted from 60 for a quadruple bogey.

The 18th-hole disaster put a bow on McIlroy’s seven-over 43. If the defending champ wants to stick around for the weekend, he now has his work cut out for him. Follow all of the action here.

Josh Berhow

Golf.com Editor

Josh Berhow is the managing editor at GOLF.com. The Minnesota native graduated with a journalism degree from Minnesota State University in Mankato. You can reach him at joshua_berhow@golf.com.