Rory McIlroy (-17) Wins British Open

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Rory McIlroy at Players Championship 2013: Day 1 Analysis, Recap and More

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Rory McIlroy at Players Championship 2013: Day 1 Analysis, Recap and More
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy has never made a cut at a Players Championship, but his play on Thursday gives him a great chance to break the negative trend.

The 24-year-old from Northern Ireland produced a six-under 66 (h/t PGA Tour on Twitter) on the first day at TPC Sawgrass. Were it not for an otherworldly performance from Roberto Castro, McIlroy would probably have finished up as the leader.

Castro tied a course record with a nine-under 63, but McIlroy has to feel good about his day. After a sketchy past on the course, he is ready to change his TPC fortunes.

Here is a look at Rory's day.

 

10th Hole—Par 4—424 yards

Rory came out strong on this dogleg left hole. Though he didn't get the birdie, he didn't give any strokes away to start his day. The stability on the hole was what he needed psychologically to get off to a good start.

Hole Score: even

Overall: even


11th Hole—Par 5—535 yards

The best players who have the ability to go long off the tee must shine on the par-fives. McIlroy handled his first long hole of the day nicely, notching his first birdie to go one-under par.

Hole Score: minus-one

Overall: minus-one

 

12th Hole—Par 4—358 yards

Rory made it back-to-back birdies as he moved to two-under with a nice birdie putt on 12. It seems clear he was sharp, but McIlroy fans were likely holding their breath for the 17th and 18th holes at this point.

Hole Score: minus-one

Overall: minus-two

 

13th Hole—Par 3—181 yards

There is no shame in parring the first par-three hole of the day, especially considering the intimidating water hazard that defines this hole. McIlroy gladly walked away with par here to remain at two-under.

Hole Score: even

Overall: minus-two

 

14th Hole—Par 4—467 yards

Rory navigated the longest par-four on the course without major issue. On a relatively difficult hole that could have led to McIlroy giving a shot back, he didn't just maintain—he came away with a birdie.

He was looking strong at this point.

Hole Score: minus-one

Overall: minus-three

 

15th Hole—Par 4—449 yards

McIlroy has had his issues with trees in the past. The tall timbers are the biggest impediment on this hole, but he wasn't slowed by them.

He remained steady here with a solid par.

Hole Score: even

Overall: minus-three

 

16th Hole—Par 5—507 yards

You could see McIlroy's confidence brimming on this hole. He was aware of well he was playing and it was evident in his body language. He had no problems with the water hazard here, as he calmly sunk a 14-foot birdie to move to four-under on the day.

Hole Score: minus-one

Overall: minus-four

 

17th Hole—Par 3—137 yards

Can you say hot? Rory can. He strung together another awesome hole and began charging up the leaderboard early with his fifth birdie of the day. 

With the vaunted island hole out of the way, he had to be breathing a sigh of relief. 

Hole Score: minus-one

Overall: minus-five

 

18th Hole—Par 4—447 yards

McIlroy finished out his first nine holes with a solid par. He had to do a little maintenance, but sitting at minus-five was a great position to be in at the turn.

Hole Score: even

Overall: minus-five

 

First Hole—Par 4—392 yards

After the turn McIlroy continued his consistency. Staying solid at the start of the second half of the day would be important for Rory and he did that. This is one of the shortest par-four holes on the course and generally one of the toughest, and players are generally satisfied to come away from it with a par.

Hole Score: even

Overall: minus-five

 

Second Hole—Par 5—532 yards

Rory just continues to assault the par-fives; he dropped another birdie on the long holes. Being sharp on these holes is important because they are traditionally the easiest on the course.

McIlroy didn't squander the opportunities.

Hole Score: minus-one

Overall: minus-six

 

Third Hole—Par 3—177 yards

It was impossible not to be aware of the torrid pace Castro was setting for the field, but McIlroy had to be happy with the pace he set for himself up this point too.

Rory handled the second-shortest hole on the course with a solid par.

Score: even

Overall: minus-six

 

Fourth Hole—Par 4—384 yards

There are several potential pitfalls on this hole. From the wide water hazard to the inconvenient bunkers, there is plenty that can go wrong.

McIlroy avoided them all to maintain par and stay close to Castro.

Hole Score: even

Overall: minus-six

 

Fifth Hole—Par 4—466 yards

Rory began a solid run of accuracy off the tee here. He improved his driving accuracy from the first nine holes. He was at just 50 percent at the turn, but through the seventh hole, Rory was at 61.54 percent driving accuracy.

That helped him make this the third of seven pars in a row.

Hole Score: even

Overall: minus-six

 

Sixth Hole—Par 4—393 yards

This hole has been described as awkward, but McIlroy again negotiated the hole without issue. Rory stayed consistent and almost guaranteed a solid round with yet another par.

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Hole Score: even

Overall: minus-six

 

Seventh Hole—Par 4—442 yards

With the majority of the heavy lifting done in the morning, McIlroy was smart to be content with staying even with each hole. This is a long par-four, but McIlroy handled it as well as he had the others on Thursday.

He finishes the day two-under on the par-four holes.

Hole Score: even

Overall: minus-six

 

Eighth Hole—Par 3—219 yards

After finding a bunker off the tee, McIlroy was able to scramble a bit and salvage par on this hole. This was the last major test to disrupt a marvelous day, but McIlroy passed it nicely.

Another par kept him at six-under for the day.

Hole Score: even

Overall: minus-six

 

Ninth Hole—Par 5—583 yards

McIlroy had a difficult attempt at a birdie to finish his day, but the long putt went a bit left. He was able to secure the par with a short putt to round out a great day.

Hole Score: even

Overall: minus-six

 

Outlook for Friday

McIlroy's confidence should be high heading into play on Friday. Much of the talk surrounding him before the tournament began was based on him missing every previous cut on this course.

With a great performance on Thursday, his fellow players better be on notice. McIlroy could be headed for one of those dominant performances that makes it difficult to keep pace. 

 

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