McIlroy Controversy, Schauffele Trouble, Both at 7th Hole of The Players

Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele tied at 7-under par with half the field finished at The Players. Both of them had issues with the seventh hole, which played as their 16th hole of the round because they started on 10.

Rory McIlroy - THE PLAYERS Championship
Rory McIlroy - THE PLAYERS Championship / Mike Ehrmann/GettyImages

McIlroy was 8-under par until he hit his drive on the par 4, 7th hole into a water hazard that flanks the left side of the hole. The design features a three to four-foot sloping drop-off from the fairway level to the water.

The controversy was that no one really had perfect vision of what the ball did or where it landed.  Playing with McIlroy were Jordan Spieth and Viktor Hovland. In addition, there was discussion as to whether the ball hit above or below the red hazard line before finding water. McIlroy and his caddie believed the ball hit above the red line. Spieth and Hovland were not as sure. 

There was no good camera angle from the television coverage. The only available view was from perpendicular, from the right side of the hole at a 90-degree angle to the fairway.

A rules official was called. 

Spieth did a lot of gesturing and talking, before the rules official arrived. 

McIlroy had taken a drop and was waiting on the ruling.   

“I think Jordan was just trying to make sure that I was doing the right thing,” McIlroy said after his round was finished. “I was pretty sure that my ball had crossed where I was sort of dropping it. It's so hard, right, because there was no TV evidence.”

UK journalists shared quotes from their television feed that went as follows:

"“Rory: I’m pretty comfortable I saw it above the red line.” “Hovland: I think it was pretty close.”
“Spieth: Everyone I’m hearing that had eyes on it – which is not what matters – is saying they are 100% certain it landed below the red line. It’s what you guys think.”  
“Harry: Who is everybody, Jordan? Who are you talking about?”
Volunteer points out almost impossible to see from that side. "

Courtesy; Ewan Murray and David Facey

The landing spot, according to McIlroy was “a bit of a blind spot. I think the best view was from the tee, which was the view that we had.”

McIlroy was granted a drop, which was proper, took a penalty shot, and made a double bogey on the hole, putting him into a tie with Schauffele.

There was another water hazard situation on the 18th hole, where his tee shot found water on the left. He made bogey on that hole.

“I feel like I'm one of the most conscientious golfers out here, so if I feel like I've done something wrong, it'll play on my conscience for the rest of the tournament,” he said when he finished play. “I'm a big believer in karma, and if you do something wrong, I feel like it's going to come around and bite you at some point.”

The only issue, because it was a red hazard line, was where to drop because the slope was apparently hard to see.  

McIlroy believes he did the right thing on both drops.  

So, McIlroy shot a 65 with two balls in the water. He said he would have preferred it was a 62 with none in the water.

Schauffele did not have any controversy on his two misfired shots, one of which was on the 7th hole.

On the 7th, instead of finding water on the left, Schauffele found pine straw and tree trouble on the right. He had a choice of snaking his way through four trees, hitting over the trees, or hitting out to the fairway.  

“There was a huge stump where my right foot was going, and to pitch out it would have been up and over to a fairway I couldn't see with a leaf behind my ball going that direction, and it was like a 50-yard shot,” he explained.

The ball was sitting down, he said.

“I had to hoist it up, so I hit 8-iron and was able to hit sort of a high sweep across the bunker and water,” he said.“I told Austin ( his caddie) I can live with the hero shot versus like messing up the pitch-out and chipping out again.”

He later told reporters that out of 100 tries, he could probably make that shot 30% of the time.

On the 5th hole, what used to be a long par 4 and is now a medium par 4, Schauffele pulled his tee shot dangerously close to a pond on the right. He was on a small strip of land that was between water and a bunker. The recovery shot was brilliant, though. He landed two feet, eight inches from the hole and made the putt for birdie.

“Five was just a great break. Hit a hard drive on the wind," he explained. “Last year that ball probably would have caught the corner of the water there. I was able to cover and just trying to hit it up by the green and was able to hit it to three feet. That was a big bonus on five.”

On Golf Channel there was a graphic showing that tee times of winners in recent years had come from the early/late tee time groups, meaning the first tee times of competitors is in the morning and the second is in the afternoon.

It shouldn’t matter, but sometimes strange coincidences show up, and that’s one of them.

Next. 2024 PLAYERS Championship Power Rankings. 2024 PLAYERS Championship Power Rankings. light

In the afternoon, wind tends to kick up along the coast. Also, after half of the field has played, the greens are tracked up a bit, making putting more difficult.

But that’s why the field is switched the next day to reverse the conditions and even things out.

McIlroy and Schauffele play in the afternoon groupings on Friday.