McGirt, who is looking to finally convert a first-round lead into a PGA Tour tournament win after five failed attempts in the past, hit three birdies on the front nine and eagled both of the par-fives on the back nine in his round at TPC Sawgrass.
McIlroy worked hard in the offseason while testing new equipment.
Maybe it was too much too soon. "But I scrambled pretty well, and I birdied two of the last three holes to make it somewhat respectable". I've been very limited hitting golf balls.
"Hopefully, all going well, we get back on". "We just hope it's not the same thing, the joint and the rib. I've sort of been trying to rest that and manage that, so I think that's why I'm a little bit rusty, as well".
Defending champion Jason Day plays with past champions Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson, while world No. 1 Dustin Johnson tees it up with Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas in Thursday's opening round of The Players.
"It's obviously not 100 percent", he said.
"I still feel like I've got a long window", the Australian world No. 11 said at last week's Wells Fargo Championship, where he tied for 36th. "But it's good enough to get myself around here for the next couple of days".
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McIlroy then revealed he would have an MRI scan on Monday to determine the extent of his own back problem, the world No 2 admitting the "most important thing" is to be fit for June's US Open. 11 and 16. In four prior starts at TPC Sawgrass, McGirt's only other sub-70 round was a 7-under 65 in the second-round previous year.
"It's in the same area as what the injury was at the start of the year", McIlroy said. So I maybe should have just taken it a bit easier over the weekend, but I was excited to get back, excited to get ready to play again. "Hopefully that's what it shows in the scan next week".
"I'm just making sure that the tissue around it is as loose as it possibly can be and at least the warm weather helps keep it not stiffened up". I felt a bit of stiffness on Sunday, and I hit a couple of drives that didn't feel quite right.
Another glamor group follows them to the tee 11 minutes later as world No. 5 Jordan Spieth, No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama of Japan and five-times major victor Phil Mickelson set off on the revamped Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.
"You don't know whether to say "be good", "go" or "sit" because it's such a tricky hole, but it was a pretty good yardage for me to hit a solid 52-degree (wedge) and fortunately it worked out ideal for me and went in".
"There have been so many things going on and maybe I would have loved to play something before this week to come here a little more relaxed".
Day's victory at Sawgrass 12 months ago was his seventh in 17 events, but he has recorded just one top-10 finish in 2017, although his form has been badly affected by his mother's battle with lung cancer.
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