Rory McIlroy suffered a first round splash down at the island green 17th to card a 74 that leaves him struggling to make the cut on his debut in The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

The 20 year old had struggled all day but was pleased to be two under when he stood up on the 17th facing a 147 yard shot to the back pin.

He was astonished as his tee shot flew the green by a yard and plonked into the water. Moving across to the drop zone, his third shot spun back to the edge of the green from where he awkwardly three putted for a triple bogey six.

To make matters worse, he overdrew his tee shot into the left to right wind at the last and found water again to drop another stroke to par.

But it was the 17th that left him non-plussed and he must now carda  sub-par second round to avoid missing the cut for the first time in five strokeplay starts on the PGA Tour this year.

McIlroy said: "It was 148 yards to the pin today. I hit a wedge and just flew the lot. I don't know if I got a gust or something.

"I wasn't going big with my third shot from the drop zone. I spun it back to the front and took three to get down.

"It's not a nice way to finish, but I didn't play that well today. I hung in well, though, and got it round. I thought getting it to two-under through 16 had been good for the way I was struggling a little out there.

"I battled well, but the way things happened through the last two holes undid all the good work.

"I'd struggled to find the fairways and you can't afford to do that around here, but I worked hard to make the up-and-downs.

"I thought I hit a perfect shot. It looked all over it, as if it was going to bounce maybe three or four yards from the pin and be close. But it just flew the whole lot."

Ben Crane shot a seven under par 65 to lead by a shot from Richard S Johnson, John Mallinger and Alex Cejka with Graeme McDowell six off the pace after a 71 that left him tied with a frustrated Tiger Woods.

Padraig Harrington struggled to avoid the left rough off the tee again but cobbled together a level par 72 that left him tied for 58th place.

The Dubliner birdied three par fives - the second, ninth and 11th - but dropped shots at the third, fifth and 10th before parring his way home.