In his fourth tournament in four weeks, McIlroy would always battle fatigue. He also has a cold and has said he wasn’t comfortable with his fairway woods. Still, after an opening round of 62, he was still on Friday, 5 under through 11 holes and in the lead at 13 under.
Then it all went wrong.
McIlroy hooked his tee shot out of bounds at number 12. After a penalty and he hit three off the tee, he blew his next try into the right fescue, pushed his fourth shot into the bunker on the green and barely got his ball out the sand, and took three to get from there for an 8.
It was McIlroy’s sixth career quad and the first since the 2021 PLAYERS Championship.
“You know, if you do a tee shot like on 12, the first, the second is pretty hard,” he said, “and you’re guarding the left and I missed it on the right.”
He again used a fairway wood at hole 271 yard 15th, and that, too, led to problems. His tee shot would go up on the fescue-covered hillside to the right of the green, and although he seemed to have averted disaster when his second shot stopped just short of the green, he shoved his third over the green and into the water. He took a drop, chipped and made an 11-footer to save the double.
It was a bizarre run 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 the 36 holes left in the tournament.
“For some reason I haven’t been comfortable with my fairway woods for the past few weeks,” he said. “You know, I knocked three loose there, two on 12 and then the one on 15. That was it. Otherwise I played well. Obviously made a good start.
“I thought I came back well,” he added. “I made a good putt for 6 out of 15 and then birdied 16. Yeah, I should be closer to the lead. I feel like I’ve allowed a lot of guys into the golf tournament because of that. But you know, it’s only two more rounds. There are still two rounds to go and there is still a lot of golf to go.”