It was a blistering pace that he couldn’t possibly keep up but it was clear Rory McIlroy brought his ‘A’ game for the second round of THE PLAYERS. Starting on the back nine where he’s had tremendous success, Mcilroy birdied the first four holes and went birdie-eagle at 15 and 16 to shoot 29 on his opening nine holes. That tied the record set just yesterday by Shane Lowry.
“I knew that the course was going to play much easier than it did yesterday afternoon,” he explained in the “flash” interview right after his round. “This course really does play so much differently from morning to afternoon.”
Over the past three years, McIlroy has played the back in 44 under par but is 13 over par on the front. While he didn’t scorch the front, birdies at 2 and 7 put him on the verge of tying or setting the course record. But his lone bogey of the round came at the par five ninth. Rory said he’s carrying at 2-iron this week instead of a 5-wood and that influenced his decision to lay up instead of going for the green in two.
“So I sort of talked myself out of it on the fairway,” he said. “And I laid up and thought, I’ll take my chances from inside a hundred yards from the fairway. I might have left myself a little bit too close. I was trying to get really sort of cute with it, I guess, and I just hit it too easy.”
Coming down the stretch, McIlroy said he was aware he had a chance at the course record and was looking to make a closing birdie to shoot 62. Despite moving back into contention, he admitted his round couldn’t have been lower.
“I’m disappointed, but there’s still two more days to go. But that’s the nice thing; I’m in a good position heading into the weekend. The course will play a little bit tougher this afternoon, but hopefully I’m still not too far behind going into the weekend.”
Starting on the front, Colt Knost moved to the top of the leaderboard with a course record tying 63 in his second round.
“The fairways are running, which kind of makes this place challenging,” he said, “But at the same time it makes it play so short. I’m having so many wedges into greens, obviously I’m one of the shorter hitters out here, but you give us wedges into these greens, you’re going to be able to get aggressive.
Knost shot 31-32 with five consecutive birdies from 5-8 on the front and followed that with four birdies on the back. He came to 18 at ten under but a bogey on the finishing hole cost him the course record. And he knew it.
“Yeah, for sure I knew it. I watch a lot of golf, to be honest,” he explained. “When I birdied 15 to get to 9, I kind of thought, I’m going to have a really good chance at this thing, especially going into 16, and honestly got pretty unlucky on 16 where my second shot ended up, but hit two great shots on 17, and then I knew where I stood on 18, and I also knew I snap-hooked it in the water there yesterday, so that went through the head.”
A driver and a 7-iron left Knost two putts from the record but he couldn’t complete that task.
“It seems like every time you try to two-putt, you leave yourself something a little more than you want. I was nervous over the last putt just because — you know, so many great players have played this golf course and all that, and to be the first one and only one to shoot 10-under would have been really cool.”
Perhaps some familiarity with the course is a bonus as Jax Beach resident Jonas Blixt carded his second straight 67 to finish the first two rounds at -10. Blixt’s 67 included 3 bogeys to go along with eight birdies. It’s not surprising to see Alex Cejka’s name near the top of the leaderboard. Having been the 54-hole leader a few years ago, Cejka is accustomed to going low at the stadium course, backing up his opening 67 with another to finish 54 holes at -10. Bo Weekley continued his solid play following his opening round 66 with a 69 and is at 9 under.