Rory McIlroy may be third in driving distance this week and may even have recorded the longest drive so far during Thursday’s play, but after a four-over 76 and a driving accuracy percentage of only 42.9 per cent, he seems less than thrilled with where his game off the tee is going.

He said the problem may have been a driver that was too hot and one he hasn’t figured out yet. And of course, he said: “There’s quite a lot of user error in there, as well.”

While McIlroy came into the week ranked 10th in strokes gained/off-the-tee, and though he’s rarely been known as the most accurate driver on tour, he is tied 183rd in driving accuracy early in the Players, which would be his worst-ever performance in that statistical category.

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All that said, McIlroy lost nearly six strokes to the field on Thursday based on his play around the green and putting, things his driver had nothing do with.

McIlroy talked after Thursday’s round about the switching out of TaylorMade’s Stealth Plus driver during the week of the Genesis Invitational because he was afraid it might not pass golf’s test for spring-like effect. The problem with the club, which he used during his FedEx Cup championship season all last year and early this year during his win at the Dubai Desert Classic in January on the DP World Tour, was it may have been worn into a state of the face being too hot. He switched to TaylorMade’s latest Stealth 2 Plus, the second version of the company’s drivers that feature a carbon composite face.

“I wish I could use my driver from last year, but I can’t just because you use a driver for so long, and it starts to get a little too … basically it just wouldn’t pass the test,” he told reporters on Thursday. “These driver heads are so finicky, it’s hard to get one exactly the same.”

He said drivers were being tested for conformance at Riviera and he wasn’t comfortable having his old driver in the bag. “The more a club is used, the more it’s hit, the more springy the face becomes,” he said. “I just didn’t even want to take the chance. I just was not comfortable [at the driver potentially failing].”

McIlroy said he’s been struggling with his tee ball the last few weeks. He hasn’t hit more than 50 per cent of the fairways the last two weeks, although he did hit nearly 70 per cent of the fairways in winning the CJ Cup last autumn. He said he likes how the new driver has controlled his miss.

“There’s not a lot of left in it, which I like,” he said. “Historically, my miss off the tee has been left, so it’s nice to know that you’re sort of taking, I guess, that side out of play.” For the year, McIlroy ranks 162nd in right rough tendency, but 62nd in left rough tendency.