World's No. 1 golfer returns to Players

McIlroy hopes new iron will change luck at TPC Sawgrass

by Lance Hanlin,

Rory McIlroy may be the No. 1 golfer in the world right now but he hasn’t had success in the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. The 23-year-old has played the tournament twice, missing the cut both times. In four rounds on the Stadium Course, he has yet to break par.

After controversially skipping the tournament last year, McIlroy returns for the 2012 event, which starts Thursday. The 23-year-old is hoping a new iron will lead to new luck in Ponte Vedra Beach. He is replacing the 5-wood in his bag with a 2-iron, something he grew up using in Northern Ireland.

“I’ve never been a fan of the hybrids,” McIlroy told reporters in the media tent on Tuesday. “I always switched between a 2-iron and a 5-wood, depending on where I played. Growing up playing amateur golf in the (United Kingdom), you’re playing a lot of links courses, so you would use a 2-iron quite a lot.”

McIlroy took over the top spot in the world rankings after losing a playoff duel to longtime friend Rickie Fowler in last week’s Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow. Despite his past struggles at the Players, Las Vegas has made him the favorite to win the tournament at 10-to-1 odds.

McIlroy said the course is in better shape than he’s ever seen it.

“I’m looking forward to (the tournament),” he said. “It’s a different type of golf course. It’s a big advantage if you’re playing from the fairway, especially with the small greens. And the rough around here, it can be a little thick in patches and it can be a little tricky. … I don’t mind sacrificing distance as long as you’re hitting from the fairways here.”

McIlroy has been paired with Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker in Thursday’s first round, starting at 1:49 p.m. off the first tee. On Monday night, Mickelson was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame at a ceremony in nearby St. Augustine.

Previous winner Tiger Woods will play with Fowler and Hunter Mahan starting at 8:30 a.m. off the No. 10 tee.

Since winning it in 2001, Woods has played inconsistent at the event. His lone win in 14 starts is the fewest career wins he has in an event he has started more than 10 times.

“I think that is the nature of this golf course,” Wood said. “When you’re off, you’re going to get penalized pretty severely. When you’re on, the course seems pretty easy because all the balls tend to funnel towards flags.”

2012 Players Championship:

  • What: 2012 Players Championship
  • When: Thursday through Sunday, May 10-13
  • Where: TPC Sawgrass; Ponte Verda Beach, Fla.
  • Course: Stadium Course


Stadium Course facts:

  • Course superintendent: Thoams R. Vlach
  • Original architect: Pete Dye (1979)
  • Redesign: Pete Dye (2006)
  • Par value: 72
  • Grass: 419 bermudagrass (tees, fairways); Bermudagrass (rough); Mini-Verde bermudagrass (greens)
  • Tournament Stimpmeter: 12.5 ft.
  • Sand bunkers: 93
  • Water hazards: 24
  • Course record: 63 (Fred Couples 1992, Greg Norman 1994)



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