Players Championship 2019: Rory McIlroy, with a 67, again among leaders, but Sunday is always lurking


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Rory McIlroy’s recent Sunday scares have been well-documented in what no doubt has been a dubious and at times vexing situation for the four-time major champ. How could they not be after he has failed to win from the final pairing in any of his last nine opportunities over the last 15 months?

The flip side, of course, is that the 29-year-old Northern Irishman has managed to dust himself off and continued to put himself in contention time and again.

In McIlroy’s first start of the year in Hawaii, he opened with three straight rounds in the 60s only to fade with a final-round 72 to tie for fourth. In his next two starts, at the Farmers Insurance Open and Genesis Open, he finished T-4 and T-5.

At the World Golf Championship-Mexico Championship, McIlroy again found himself with the last tee time on Sunday but couldn’t keep up with Dustin Johnson and finished second. Two weeks later at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he again was in the last group but shot a ho-hum 72 at Bay Hill.

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McIlroy’s scoring average over his past seven final-group appearances is 72, and his 72 last Sunday was the highest score of any player inside the top 15. Ouch.

Yet once again he finds himself near the top of another leaderboard after a five-under 67 on Thursday in the opening round of the Players Championship.

“I’m comfortable in my game,” he said after the five-birdie, no-bogey effort. “I’m driving it pretty well. My iron play for the most part is pretty good. I’m doing everything well.”

At least until Sunday, that is. But that’s a story for another day.

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McIlroy’s 67 was one off his career best in 29 laps around TPC Sawgrass, a course where he has missed the cut four times in nine appearances.

And yet it had the makings of something even better, with three missed birdie chances from inside 10 feet. Still, he’ll take it.

“It’s a new week,” said McIlroy, who has just one victory since the end of 2016. “That’s the great thing about golf. Once you wake up on Monday morning, it’s a fresh start.”

Now the only question is when will he wake up on a Monday with another trophy by his side?

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