Rory McIlroy missed out on creating a piece of history in the Players Championship as Shane Lowry set the clubhouse target in the weather-affected second round on Friday.
McIlroy carded seven birdies and an eagle in his first 16 holes at Sawgrass and came to the par-five ninth, his final hole, needing a birdie to set a new course record of 62.
However, faced with a second shot from 271 yards, the four-time major winner surprisingly opted to lay up and then missed the green from 90 yards with his approach, before fluffing a chip and running up his only bogey of the day.
The resulting 64 left McIlroy three shots behind his potential Olympic team mate Lowry, who added a 68 to his opening 65 to finish 11 under par, a shot ahead of Jonas Blixt, Alex Cejka and Cameron Tringale.
World number one Jason Day remained top of the leaderboard on 14 under but was unable to complete his round following a two-hour delay due to lightning in the area, the US PGA Champion opting not to complete the 15th after play was eventually suspended due to darkness.
McIlroy felt he had got the worst of the weather as one of the later starters on Thursday and was pleased to take advantage of the better conditions on Friday morning.
“It was benign, soft greens and the back nine you could not get it any easier, so to take advantage of that was really nice,” added McIlroy, who is now a combined 44 under par for the back nine and 12 over for the front since 2013.
“I was going well and it would have been nice to make a four on the last, but 64 is still a great score and hopefully I’m not going to be too far behind going into the weekend. I hit a lot of quality shots today. I feel like my game has been under control the last four rounds so hopefully I can continue like that over the weekend.”