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After storming into a share of the lead in the opening round of The PLAYERS Championship, Rory McIlroy insisted his conscience was clear after a lengthy drop discussion with playing partners Viktor Hovland and Jordan Spieth.

McIlroy posed a seven-under 65 to hit the front after the first day at TPC Sawgrass, leading the way alongside Xander Schauffele and Viktor Hovland.

However, an incident on the par-4 seventh – his 16th – overshadowed one of his best rounds of the year.

The four-time major champion’s tee shot found the water off the tee, requiring McIlroy to take a drop. However, the location of the drop prompted a lengthy conversation with his two playing partners.

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In McIlroy’s view, his ball had landed above the hazard, which entitled him to take a one-shot penalty and a drop near the point where it crossed the line.

However, Spieth interjected that several eyewitnesses on the opposite side of the hole believed that they had seen it bounce below the line before going into the hazard, which would have required McIlroy to take a one-shot penalty and return to the tee to play his third.

After a lengthy back and forth with Spieth and Hovland, and with television replays providing inconclusive evidence, McIlroy took a drop from where he believed the ball had crossed and ultimately made double.

You can watch the whole incident for yourself here:

Afterwards, McIlroy was asked for his assessment of the situation.

“I think Jordan was just trying to make sure that I was doing the right thing,” he said. “I mean, I was pretty sure that my ball had crossed where I was sort of dropping it. It’s so hard, right, because there was no TV evidence. I was adamant. But I think, again, he was just trying to make sure that I was going to do the right thing.

“If anything, I was being conservative with it. I think at the end of the day we’re all trying to protect ourselves, protect the field, as well.

“I wouldn’t say [Spieth’s intervention] was needless. I think he was just trying to make sure that what happened was the right thing.

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Pressed further, McIlroy added: “I feel like I’m one of the most conscientious golfers out here, so if I feel like I’ve done something wrong, it’ll play on my conscience for the rest of the tournament. I’m a big believer in karma, and if you do something wrong, I feel like it’s going to come around and bite you at some point.

“I obviously don’t try to do anything wrong out there, and play by the rules and do the right thing. I feel like I obviously did that those two drops.”

Neither Spieth nor Hovland spoke to the media following the round.

author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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