Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Juwan Howard ejected after tense argument with Mark Turgeon

The Telegraph

Rory McIlroy falls foul of The Players Championship curse in first-round Sawgrass horror show

It is not accurate to say Rory McIlroy was all over the shop. The Northern Irishman was all over the superstore, if not the entire industrial estate. McIlroy went into the first round of The Players seeking “a spark”, but instead experienced a nightmarish jolt that many of his admirers will fear could crush his confidence with The Masters less than a month away. Those with a knowledge of the PGA Tour’s flagship event might look at McIlroy’s 79 – an X-rated classic starring a quadruple bogey with two water balls on his ninth hole – and link it to the curse of Sawgrass. In The Players’ 47-year history, no champion has ever successfully retained the title. And the hex gets spookier still as in the last 18 years no winner has finished in the top 10 the next year. McIlroy is aware of this anomaly, but he acutely acknowledged that his dire performance – complete with an outward-half of a seven-over 43, the joint-worse nine of his 13-year professional career – had nothing to do with myth or hoodoo or spells or invocation. Instead, this was chilling reality. McIlroy is possessed by the dreaded two-way miss – that wretched condition which renders a golfer uncertain of which direction his ball will be heading next – and although a quick lesson from Pete Cowen in the build-up gave him hope of an easy fix, the great Yorkshire coach’s verdict that “it is only a slight flaw” proved as wide of the mark as some of McIlroy’s drives. Jaws hit Florida turf after his opening tee-shot. A wild hook forced McIlroy to hit a provisional and he proceeded to yank that left that as well. McIlroy was fortunate to locate his first atrocity, but still went on to make a double-bogey six. A missed tiddler two holes later transformed his body language from terrifying to horrific and so the video nasty played out on the 478 par-four, grandstand hole which he so nervelessly parred in 2019 to claim his biggest victory since the 2014 USPGA. McIlroy tugged his furious drive into the lake, did the same with a four-iron and eventually three-putted to pen an abominable snowman on his scorecard. There was no wind. There was no excuse. However, there was a reason. “You’re trying to figure it out as you’re going along, but you’re still not really sure where the shots are coming from,” McIlroy said. “It’s hard, at least, to try to eliminate one side of the course, basically.”

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