McIlroy and Lowry feel Sawgrass pain as The Players gets out of control

McIlroy and Lowry feel Sawgrass pain as The Players gets out of control

Graeme McDowell survived the carnage but Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry suffered on Sawgrass’s ice rink greens in the third round of The Players.

That Jason Day could shoot a one over 73 and maintain his four-shot lead said it all about a Saturday set up that bordered on the ridiculous for some.

For others it was plainly over the top as greens that are to be torn up on Monday went brown and effectively died.

"I want to say this was the toughest day I've ever had to play in my life,'' said Day,

Adam Scott said: “It’s as extreme as you could have this set of greens today. They are as quick as they could possibly be to be playable here.”

McIlroy three-putted five times and had 37 putts in total.

“I felt like I got really tentative over some putts, and it’s hard,” McIlroy said after a three over 75 left him nine off the pace on five under alongside Lowry and McDowell. “Usually you’re over a four  or five-footer, like ‘OK, just knock this in the back of the hole,’ and you couldn’t do it out there.”

Playing the course from the 10th, McDowell shot 69 and jumped 50 places to tied 15th alongside McIlroy and Lowry.

The Offaly man was in the final three ball with Day and Jonas Blixt and he did well in the end to shoot 78 having started bogey-bogey-double bogey-bogey with a three-putt and a missed three footer on the board before he got into the round. 

That he played the remaining 14 holes in just one over and had just 33 putts was almost miraculous and he still has time to achieve a great finish and give his season the momentum he has been seeking.

Still, all talk was of the greens. 

“They must have rolled them more than normal,'' Scott said. "You can cut greens and get them smooth, but rolling them makes them fast, and they must have rolled them more than any other day.

"Couple more tonight and one more in the morning and we will be ice skating tomorrow.''

The PGA Tour denied it had done anything out of the ordinary.

"We have done the same thing all week,'' said Mark Russell, the tour's vice president of rules and competition. "We have been double-cutting these greens and double-rolling them and trying to get them firmed up.

"And what happened today was just kind of a perfect storm with the weather. We weren't expecting a 20 mile-an-hour wind all day, and the humidity 30 percent, not a cloud in the sky. And they just, you know, sped up on us.’'

Day looked every inch the world No 1 despite giving the field encouragement by making two double bogeys in an outward 39.

McIlroy turned in one under 35 to get within two of the lead at one stage but came home in 40 as Day made seven pars and two birdies for nine of 34.

“I want to win this tournament so bad,” said Day, who has converted his last four 54-hole leads into wins. “I really do … especially with how you can go down in history. This may push me over the line someday to get in the Hall of Fame, and that’s obviously key for me.

“I want to look back and know that I won The Players. But right now, I’m just trying to focus on trying to play well tomorrow. I mean, that’s all you could do, is just try and survive.”

As for McIlroy, he felt it was borderline unfair:

"I mean, it's like a U.S. Open out there. I can't really describe it any other way. I mean, it got to the point where when you're grounding your putter, you can't square it up because the surfaces are so shiny and so slippy. It was difficult. It was really difficult. And then to have -- obviously we played in the morning yesterday, and to have such a drastic speed change in the greens from when we played yesterday to today, I just found I had a really difficult time to adjust to them. I stood up here yesterday and I said it's amazing how differently the course plays from morning to afternoon, but I didn't expect it to be like that out there this afternoon. That was borderline unfair on a few holes. A few pin positions were on crowns, and you dribble a putt by, all of a sudden it's six feet by. For the way they -- I'm not sure if they expected to get the greens this firm or -- there was a few pins out there that I felt were just a little too much on the edge. It was obviously difficult, and I felt like I was holding it together okay, but I think I hit 16 out of 18 greens out there. I mean, I played well. Tee to green I played well. I think I had five three-putts. It was just one of those days. It was tough to -- I mean, you see some of the scores, 65, 67. I mean, that's way better than any of the 63s that you saw out there the first two days.