Playing his fourth tournament in four weeks, McIlroy always struggled with fatigue. He also has a cold and has said that he is not comfortable with his fairway woods. Still, he was still in the lead from 5 under 11 holes and 13 under on Friday after an early 62.
Then it all went wrong.
McIlroy dropped his tee shot at No. 12. After a penalty and three hits from the tee, he blew his next attempt into the right fescue, advancing his fourth shot into the greenside bunker, barely getting his ball out of the sand, and getting down there for an 8. Took three.
It was McIlroy’s sixth career quad, and the first since the 2021 PLAYERS Championship.
“You know, when you hit a tee shot like 12, the first one, the second one is very difficult,” he said, “and you’re guarding the left and I missed it on the right.”
He used a fairway wood again on the 271-yard 15th hole, and that also caused problems. His tee shot would be on the green fescue-covered hill, and when it seemed to him that when his second shot stopped just off the green, he blew his third shot into the green and into the water. He took a drop, chipped, and made an 11-foot save for the 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 warm start to the round, and 36 holes left in the tournament.
“For whatever reason I haven’t been comfortable with my fairway woods over the past few weeks,” he said. “You know, I just hit three loose there, two at 12, and then one at 15. That was exactly it. I played well the rest of the way. Obviously got off to that great start.
“I thought I was well back,” he said. “I made a good put for 6 for 15 and then birdied 16. Yes, I should be close to the edge. Feel like I let a lot of people go to golf tournaments because of it. But, you know, it’s still only two rounds. There are still two rounds left and a lot of golf left.”