Rory McIlroy will play alongside Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm for the first two rounds of The Players; McIlroy finished tied-second at Bay Hill and is targeting a second TPC Sawgrass victory; Watch the opening round live on Thursday from 11.30am on Sky Sports Golf
Last Updated: 06/03/23 8:13am
Rory McIlroy believes his game is showing signs of progress ahead of The Players after narrowly missing out on victory and a return to world No 1 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The Northern Irishman mixed seven birdies with five bogeys during an enthralling final-round 70 at Bay Hill, where a host of players were chasing victory on a star-studded leaderboard, leaving him tied-second and a shot behind champion Kurt Kitayama.
McIlroy has another chance to overtake Jon Rahm as world No 1 at TPC Sawgrass, where he will partner the Spaniard and Scottie Scheffler for the first two days, with the four-time major winner pleased about his form heading into the PGA Tour’s flagship event.
“I still wish I could have had a couple of shots back today, but I guess everyone would say the same thing,” McIlroy said. “It’s one of those days and one of those courses where you’re going to rue missed opportunities and a couple of missed putts here and there.
“I need to take the positives from it, which there is a lot of. We’ve got a massive event next week and I need to try to bring that momentum into Sawgrass. I feel like I figured out the driver a little bit more this week. Yeah, it’s getting there.
“It was a good week. I saw some positive signs. Game’s rounding into form for the bulk of the season. So even though I didn’t get the win, I’m still pretty happy with how everything went this week.”
How McIlroy missed out in Bay Hill thriller
McIlroy responded to bogeying his opening two holes of the day by making back-to-back birdies from the fourth, then charged into contention after cancelling a dropped shot at the seventh with four birdies in a five-hole stretch from the ninth.
The 2018 Bay Hill champion made successive bogeys from the 14th but made a two-putt birdie at the par-five 16th to keep his hopes alive, then missed a 10-foot opportunity on the final green and ended the week on eight under.
“If I look back on today, the one thing I’ll rue is the tee shot on 14,” McIlroy admitted. “I birdied 13 and got on to 14 tee and I honestly thought I was still like one or two behind the lead.
“As I was walking to the 14th green, I looked behind me at the scoreboard, and I was leading by one. If I had of known that, I wouldn’t have tried to play the shot that I played on 14, which was unfortunate.
“I ended up making bogey there and then a bad swing off the tee on 15 and a bogey. I had a chance at the last – hit a good putt and it just missed on the low side – but it was a good week.”
The Players Championship Live
March 9, 2023, 11:30am
Scheffler pleased despite near-miss
Defending Arnold Palmer Invitational winner Scheffler also had the opportunity to reclaim the world No 1 spot from Rahm, although a final-hole bogey dropped him two strokes off the pace into tied-fourth.
“Today was a lot of fun,” Scheffler said. “Obviously I wish I played a little bit better, but at the end of the day, I put up a good fight. I didn’t have my best stuff today.
“I still gave myself a chance after a few pretty bad mistakes on the front nine, but Kurt [Kitayama] played fantastic golf today. I think to birdie 17 and par 18 to finish and win by one is pretty special.”
The Players Championship Live
March 7, 2023, 2:00pm
Sky Sports Golf will be the home of The Players in 2023, with nearly 60 hours of live coverage from Tuesday-Sunday of tournament week and a host of extra content available for you to enjoy.
Live coverage begins on Tuesday with the ‘Live from The Players’ show at 2pm, while the opening round is live on Thursday from 11.30am on Sky Sports Golf!