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Apr 13, 2013; Augusta, GA, USA; Rory McIlroy hits his tee shot on the 1st hole during the third round of the 2013 The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

Rory McIlroy Makes First Round Leaderboard at The Players Championship

Teeing off Thursday morning, and playing the back nine at The Players Championship, The world’s number two golfer, Rory McIlroy shot a bogey free -6 under par 66 and finds himself someplace he’s never been. The leaderboard at TPC Sawgrass. McIlroy got off to a hot start, putting up five birdies on the backside, including the par 3 Seventeenth.

The youngster from Northern Ireland cooled a bit on the front side making only one birdie, that coming at the par five second hole. Taking a page out of the Tiger Woods book on how to hit fairways, McIlroy hit his five wood off most of the tees on the very dangerous front nine. There is a premium at TPC Sawgrass for playing from the short grass.

He still only hit 62% of his fairways in regulation, but was able to convert all of them into pars, or birdies. His putter was working with a  1.6 putts per Green average. Not making many birdies on the front nine hurt his strokes gained putting statistic, with only a .35 strokes. He got out early before the wind came up, and his birdie production slowed as it picked up later in the day.

Rory McIlroy is playing his first two rounds with 2013 Masters champ, Adam Scott, and Steve Stricker. Scott looked to be a little rusty since his win at Augusta last month, but finished at -3 under par, and six strokes off the early lead set by Roberto Castro at -9 under par. Steve Stricker looked pretty sharp for a guy who is only playing a limited schedule this year. Stricks is in the clubhouse at -5 under par.

I find it interesting, and I almost got caught up in the hype that McIlroy has never made a cut at The Players Championship, but in all fairness, he has only two previous appearances, and granted, he missed the cut on both occasions. He did not play at TPC Sawgrass in 2011. He made the field in 2010, and 2012, but did not play in 2010. Maybe he has the PeteDye curse off his back, and ready to make his first cut in The Players Championship.

I sang the song on the Golf Community’s Back 9 discussion Wednesday, that this kid has his swing problems under control at a key time, and I think, ready to be a contender again. Most sports fans have a poor memory when someone hasn’t won in a while, but we  are only six months removed from when the young Ulsterman won the Money Title on both tours, and the Race To Dubai season ending championship. He also won the Byron Nelson Trophy for low stroke average last year, beating out number two Tiger Woods by a full stroke.

Who knows, I had him picked to make the cut, but not win the championship, but he might prove us all wrong, and win it all.

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Tags: Golf PGA Rory McIlroy Steve Stricker Tiger Woods

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