Rory McIlroy 14 shots off the...


Rory McIlroy 14 shots off the lead after terrible start at Players Championship

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Rory McIlroy's made the worst start as a defending champion at golf's Players Championship since Sandy Lyle in 1988.

The Northern Irishman found the water twice in having a quadruple-bogey on the ninth hole of his seven-over-par round of 79.

That 8 on the 18th hole was the highest score on McIlroy's professional career and the 43 shots across the back-nine is also his worst in a PGA Tour event.

It leaves the four-time major winner 14 shots behind his playing partner Sergio Garcia, with the Spanish former Masters champion hold a three-shot clubhouse lead at seven-under.

"You're trying to figure it out but you still know you're not really sure where the shots are coming from," McIlroy said after his horror round at Sawgrass.

"It's sort of as I said earlier in the week, it's hard to at least to try to eliminate one side of the golf course, basically.

"Obviously the big number on 18 didn't help and then doubling the 1st wasn't helpful either. I just think just it's hard to recover when you just haven't played good. Regardless if you take that 18th hole out, it still wasn't a very good day."

Fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell signed for a one-over round of 73.

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