Golf

Rory McIlroy blasts back into contention at the Players Championship

Rory McIlroy played flawless golf over his front nine at Sawgrass 
Phil Casey

Former world number one Rory McIlroy surged into contention for his first win of the year in the Players Championship, despite squandering a wonderful chance to create tournament history.

McIlroy carded seven birdies and an eagle in his first 16 holes at Sawgrass and came to the par-five ninth, his final hole, needing a birdie to set a new course record of 62.

However, faced with a second shot from 271 yards, the four-time major winner surprisingly opted to lay up and then missed the green from 90 yards with his approach, before fluffing a chip and running up his only bogey of the day.

The resulting 64 left McIlroy on eight under par and two shots behind clubhouse leaders Jonas Blixt and Alex Cejka, who had both recorded their second successive rounds of 67.

American Colt Knost was a shot behind after earlier also missing out on the course record, the world number 184 shooting 63 after three-putting the 18th from 40 feet.

"I've got it in my head with the ninth hole that any time that I have gone for the green it has not really worked out for me," McIlroy told Sky Sports.

"I had a good number today and laid up with a nine iron.

"I probably had two iron to the front of the green. In hindsight, with that pin being on the left side, anywhere on the right I probably had a chance to get up and down. I thought get it within 100 yards and take my chances from there and just didn't hit a great third shot and left myself in a difficult position."

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