Playing his fourth tournament in four weeks, McIlroy was always going to be fighting fatigue. He also has a cold and has said he hasn’t been comfortable with his Fairway Woods. Still, after an opening-round 62 he was still at it Friday, 5 under through 11 holes and in the lead at 13 under.
Then it all went wrong.
McIlroy hooked his way shot out of bounds left on No. 12. After a penalty and hitting three from the tee, he blew his next effort into the right fescue, advanced his fourth shot into the greenside bunker, Barely got his ball out of the sand, and took three to get down from there for an 8.
It was McIlroy’s sixth career quad, and first since the 2021 PLAYERS Championship.
“You know, when you hit a tee shot like at 12, the first one, the second one is pretty difficult,” they said, “and you’re sort of guarding against the left one and I missed it right.”
He used a Fairway wood again at the 271-yard 15th hole, and that, too, led to problems. His tee shot would be up on the fescue-covered hillside right of the green, and while he seeded to have averted disaster when his second shot stopped just short of the green, he bladed his third over the green and into the water. He took a drop, chipped up, and made an 11-footer to save himself double.
It was a Bizarre sequence for one of the best players in the world, but McIlroy chose to focus on the positives: seven birdies, his hot start to the round, and the 36 holes left in the tournament.
“For whatever reason I haven’t been comfortable with my Fairway Woods in the last couple of weeks,” he said. “You know, I just hit three loose ones there, two is 12, and then the one is 15. That was really it. I played well the rest of the way. Obviously got off to that great start.
“I thought I came back well,” he added. “I made a good putt for 6 on 15 and then birdied 16. Yeah, I should be closer to the lead. Feel like I let a lot of guys into the golf tournament because of it. But, you know, it’s still only two rounds. There are two rounds left and a lot of golf left. ”