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Rory McIlroy has had the worst possible start to his title defence at this week’s PLAYERS Championship

McIlroy, 31, comes into this week as the tournament’s reigning champion following the event’s cancellation last year.

The Northern Irishman’s shot at retaining the title hasn’t quite gone to plan, however.

McIlroy, starting on the back nine at TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course, opened with a double bogey. A three-putt on 13 also led to a bogey, but it was at the difficult par-4 18th that McIlroy’s hopes of ending his winless drought almost evaporated on Thursday afternoon.

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McIlroy hooked his draw off the tee too far left and found the water, dropped in front of the tee box and hit it into the lake again. His fifth shot was from 209 yards out and found the green, but he three-putted for a quadruple bogey.

Watch the four-time major champ’s woes for yourself.

The 18th-hole disaster rounded out McIlroy’s first-nine seven-over 43. McIlroy immediately bounced back with two consecutive birdies at the first and second holes before dropping another shot at the third.

McIlroy admitted that he felt  “dejected” with his game following dropping outside the World’s top-10 at the conclusion of the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week.

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“I don’t know, I need something, I need a spark, I need something and I just don’t seem to have it,” he said. “Some days it’s good, some days it’s not.”

The defending champ, seeking his first victory since November 2019, won’t take much solace from his start to this week’s tournament and now has a battle on his hands if he has any hope of playing into the weekend.

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