Sunday, May 19, 2024

McIlroy slips eight behind Clark at Sawgrass – News – Irish Golf Desk

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Rory McIlroy headed straight for the range after he shot a Jekyll and Hyde 73 to trail US Open champion Wyndham Clark by eight shots at halfway in The Players at TPC Sawgrass.

As Jordan Spieth addressed media questions over his quizzing of McIlroy’s drop on the seventh in that opening 65, the world number two was working on his game with caddie Harry Diamond.

McIlroy battled a two-way miss in round two and mixed five birdies with four bogeys and a double bogey to slip from a share of the lead to tied 14th.

Lacking the patience of his opening round, McIlroy combined the brilliant with the mediocre as he made three birdies and three bogeys in his first six holes before making an outrageous par from the trees at the seventh.

He birdied the par-five ninth to turn in one-under but couldn’t keep it going and played the back nine in two-over 38.

After a hook into water led to a bogey at the 12th, he followed another birdie at the par-three 13th with a double-bogey six at the 14th.

This time he pulled his tee shot into a fairway bunker and then thinned his second into a forest.

It ricocheted back into the fairway but he took four more to get down from just over 100 yards, three-putting from long range.

He escaped with a par at the 16th despite another big hook into the trees.

He had another birdie chance at the 17th but missed from nine feet.

Clark shot a second successive 65 to lead by four strokes from Xander Schauffele (69) and Canadian Nick Taylor (68) as

McIlroy’s playing partner Spieth will miss the cut on two-over after a 72.

The Texan was surprised to be summoned to address the media about Thursday’s long discussion with McIlroy over his drop at the seventh.

“I thought it ended up in a good spot,” Spieth said. “I only walked over there because I thought he had dropped it, and then he was questioning where he was dropping it. 

“So I was just trying to make sure he didn’t play it and everyone was good. I was good with the spot he was choosing. 

“Then I was just listening to the conversation of Rory and Viktor, and Rory had said, I think it’s — we think it crossed up there, could have been back there, so this seems like somewhere in between.

“But then that sounds like something you probably should verify with a rules official, and then he did, and it was all good.”

Spieth was heard on TV telling McIlroy that witnesses and seen his ball hit below the red line. 

“Well, the thing is you’re not really supposed to use anyone from the outside to say it, but I was hearing from like TV members,” Spieth said. 

“I told him when we walked off the tee that they had said that, and I said, I couldn’t tell because I thought it was going to land so much further that it surprised me where it dropped, so I didn’t actually see and it was close. 

“So I thought it was important to say that honestly so that he didn’t — they said it certainly hit above, Rory and Harry.

“Because of that, I was like, why don’t you just make sure in case they caught it. A lot of times you have an overhead, but maybe not on Thursday and Friday.”

Asked if McIlroy’s drop a the 18th, where there was also confusion over where the ball crossed the hazard line, was a factor later, Spieth said: “I mean, every situation like that is their own. They’re not like the same shots by any means.

“Look, I think all anybody wants is for you to put the ball where it should go, and in our sport you just get — especially on a golf course like this or last week, you get some situations where it can be really tricky on knowing for sure. 

“You normally err on the safe side and then you pick where you’re virtually certain where it did cross, and I think that’s what Rory chose both times.

“I don’t know why I got brought over to media, to be honest. But I get it’s me and Rory, but that kind of conversation probably happened a dozen times yesterday in groups.

“Again, it was like Viktor was having the conversation, and I only walked over because it seemed like, hey, let’s just make sure everything is all right, which I wasn’t even planning on getting involved and maybe shouldn’t have, but it seemed like they were maybe at a sticking point. So I thought maybe I could help.”

Shane Lowry and Seamus Power hope to chase down Clark, but they know they could get swallowed up by sleeping giant Sawgrass if they launch an all-out attack.

Lowry birdied three of his last five holes to card a two-under 70 and join Power, who made five birdies in a 69, safely inside the projected cut line in a tie for 34th on three-under.

They were pleased to make the weekend, but after finding themselves a daunting 11 strokes behind the impressive US Open champion Clark, they will try to tiptoe rather than charge up the leaderboard.

“I’m obviously very happy with the way I fought back,” said Lowry, who was one over for his round with five holes to go after struggling with the pace of the greens. After the fourth, I was thinking about maybe packing my bags this evening, but I holed a nice putt on five.”

The Offaly man just wants to keep swinging well as the Masters looms.

“I think if I can keep playing the way I’m playing, I’ll be happy regardless of my finish,” Lowry said. “It would be nice to go out and shoot seven-under tomorrow but you don’t have any right to go out and shoot seven-under on this course. 

“So I’ll just keep doing my thing. There are a lot of chances out there, as Wyndham obviously shows. But there’s a lot of opportunities to make big numbers as well.”

Power is slowly getting back to full fitness after battling tendinopathy in his hip for nearly a year. The subsequent loss of distance means longer clubs into greens and fewer birdies, though he is slowly getting back to full speed.

“It’s tough going out here and the margins are so small, you can’t really give up anything. So I’m gradually working that gap back in my favour.”

He was disappointed to miss a four-footer for par at the last but knows that’s part and parcel of Sawgrass, which offers multiple chances but also punishes mistakes like few PGA Tour venues.

“It happened to me on nine,” he said of the 585-yard par-five. “I don’t normally go for it in two, but I hit a perfect tee shot and was just right of the green, no more than 40 feet from the hole in two, and I had to make a six-footer for par! That’s very unusual. So it’s a great mixture. You don’t want to get too aggressive.” 

Clark shot a second successive seven-under 65 to lead by four strokes from Schauffele and Taylor and by five from Matthew Fitzpatrick (69) and Maverick McNealy (68) on 14 under par.

No one has shot 130 or better for the first two rounds at Sawgrass and failed to win, which means world number one Scottie Scheffler has his work cut out after he tweaked his neck on his second hole and needed treatment throughout the round.

While he battled to a 69 to share fourth with Tom Hoge, Germany’s Matti Schmid and Canada’s Corey Conners, Scheffler was six adrift of an imperious Clark, whose 65 made those scores from Lowry and Power look decidedly modest.

“Yeah, I hit a shot on my second hole today and I felt a little something in my neck, and then I tried to hit my tee shot on 12, and that’s when I could barely get the club back,” Scheffler said. “So I got some treatment, maybe it loosened up a tiny bit, but most of the day I was pretty much laboring to get the club somehow away from me.”

Scheffler said he’d had no neck trouble in the build up. But he was pleased with his score.

“Yeah, I did what I could to kind of stay in the tournament today, and hopefully it’ll loosen up and then I’ll be able to make somewhat normal swings tomorrow,” he said.

“I did enough I felt like today to keep myself somewhat in the tournament, and so that’s really all I could ask for.

“The way I was getting around the course, the way my neck was feeling, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to continue playing, so yeah, good fight out there.“

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