Rory McIlroy misses the cut at The Players, says he’s sacrificed his game for PGA Tour vs. LIV Golf

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Rory McIlroy’s Players campaign came to an early end as the Northern Irishman missed the cut after shooting five-over for the tournament. 

McIlroy started his week at TPC Sawgrass by defending the PGA Tour’s changes to its designated events, particularly its no-cut format, but ended it by falling victim to the cut for the sixth time in his career at the flagship event. 

He dug himself a hole with an opening double bogey Thursday, leaving him facing an uphill battle after a first round of 76. 

Things did not improve in his second round, with McIlroy bogeying the fifth and then double bogeying the sixth before a birdie to stand at six over par after 10 holes.

A storm-hit second round delayed the inevitable for McIlroy as the threat of lightning suspended play with none of the afternoon starters able to finish their rounds, instead having to come out early doors Saturday. 

Rory McIlroy missed the cut at the Players Championship, finishing five-over for the event

Rory McIlroy missed the cut at the Players Championship, finishing five-over for the event

His luck appeared to have changed as he came out Saturday morning with birdied on 11 and 16 giving him a glimmer of hope of making the cut but a final bogey on 18 was the final nail in the coffin, seeing him miss the cut by three shots.

‘Just very blah,’ McIlroy said, summing up his week. ‘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’s a bit of an enigma. 

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‘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.’

McIlroy has been one of the staunchest defenders of the PGA Tour amid golf’s civil war with LIV Golf and came out swinging once again this week in support of the recent changes to the ‘elevated’ events. 

But he admitted that he has sacrificed time working on his game to focus on ‘other stuff’ – and now it’s costing him on the course. 

‘It’s just the time management,’ McIlroy said. ‘The golf out here [at tournaments], that’s fine, but it’s just more the time at home to make sure you’re getting prepared, to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to be ready once you show up to these weeks. That’s where I’ve maybe sacrificed a little bit of time with some of this other stuff.

‘As I said, I’m ready to get back to being purely a golfer.’ 

Big mishits proved costly for McIlroy with both the driver and the putter letting him down. 

He claimed he was 'ready to get back to being purely a golfer' amid the LIV vs. PGA Tour drama

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He claimed he was ‘ready to get back to being purely a golfer’ amid the LIV vs. PGA Tour drama

Big mishits proved costly for McIlroy with both the driver and the putter letting him down

Big mishits proved costly for McIlroy with both the driver and the putter letting him down

The World No. 3 needed 60 putts in two rounds and lost more than three strokes to the field in putting. He led the field in driving distance at 305.2 yards but was tied for 117th in driving accuracy, hitting only 13 of 28 fairways at the Stadium Course.

With less than a month until the Masters – his coveted major needed to complete the career Grand Slam – McIlroy appears set to focus more on the on-course action than the drama off it. 

He said he is heading to Augusta National on Monday and Tuesday for practice rounds ahead of the first major of the year on April 6-9 in pursuit of his first Green Jacket. 

‘Just making sure my game is in shape for Augusta,’ McIlroy said. ‘Making sure that I’ve got all the shots. Making sure that I familiarize myself with the golf course again and go up there for a couple of days. But yeah, from now all the way until the start of April, it’s really just all about getting ready for Augusta.’

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Last year, the four-time major champion finished second at the Masters after shooting an eight-under 64 in the final round.

McIlroy began the event alongside his two World No. 1 rivals Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler with the trio all having occupied the top spot already in 2023.

The trio were due to play together on Saturday but Spaniard Rahm, who tops the FedExCup standings, withdrew prior to his second round through illness, leaving the door open for Scheffler to overtake him as World No. 1 once again. 

World No. 1 Jon Rahm pulled out of the Players Championship on Friday due to illness

World No. 1 Jon Rahm pulled out of the Players Championship on Friday due to illness

Scottie Scheffler (R), who was playing alongside McIlroy, could retake the World No. 1 spot

Scottie Scheffler (R), who was playing alongside McIlroy, could retake the World No. 1 spot

While his playing partners’ weeks at Sawgrass were cut short, Scheffler faired significantly better. 

The reigning Masters champion will start the third round in the final pairing, two shots of leader Adam Svensson. 

Canadian Svensson leads the Tour’s flagship event at nine-under after a birdie on the 18th saw him sign for a second round of 67.

Meanwhile, American Ben Griffin followed his opening 67 with a second round of 71 to drop back into four-way tie for third alongside Min Woo Lee, Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Collin Morikawa. 

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