Despite a 6-over-par run in a five-hole stretch Friday, Rory McIlroy left the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course feeling good about The Players Championship.


He was fighting his attitude as much as his ability to hit a green in a disastrous skid that started at the par-3 third hole.

In one dramatic turnaround, McIlroy shot a 4-under 32 on the back nine, ending with a 12-foot, 9-inch birdie at the 18th to make the cut at even-par 144 after 36 holes.

“To shoot 32 on the back nine to make the cut on the number is a really good effort,” he said. “I’ll be feeling just as good as some of the guys near the top of the leaderboard [Friday night]. I’m in for the weekend.”

McIlroy escaped because he battled back to birdie the 12th , 13th, 16th and 18th holes.

Others weren’t so lucky.

Phil Mickelson needed a birdie at either (Nos.) 17 or 18, but he settled for pars — and his third missed cut of the season. Other notable players who won’t be around for the final two rounds include Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Darren Clarke and Ben Crane.

McIlroy wasn’t the only player to squeak in. There were 19 players, including Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Angel Carrera and K.J. Choi, who were at even-par.

With 82 advancing to the weekend, there will be another cut down to the top 70 scores, plus ties, after Saturday’s round.

For the players who finished in the morning, the afternoon proved to be an anxious time. Brandt Snedeker thought his chances were done when he didn’t make a birdie at the 17th or 18th hole.

“I knew I needed to birdie one of the last two to make sure I’d be in,” he said. “I’m disappointed to look at the leaderboard and see all those red numbers up there. It’s one of those days you hate. You never want to hope guys do poorly, but I need some guys to go poorly so I can come back [Saturday].”

Snedeker, who passed the time by eating lunch and spending the rest of the day on the practice range, made the cut.

McIlroy, Scott, Charl Schwartzel and Stuart Appleby all finished on the cut line by making birdies at their final hole. But nobody had to rebound as much as McIlroy. Four bogeys and a double bogey, starting at the third hole, left him at 6 over after seven holes.

“After nine holes, I knew I played the back nine well,” McIlroy said. “I knew there were birdies out there on the way in. I tried to stay patient. Luckily, I was able to birdie the 18th again for the second day in a row to get in. Seems like a bad nine holes here and there the past few weeks have derailed me.”

The biggest challenge was fighting off his inner rage. Once he got himself under control, his swing came around, too.

“I think my attitude cost me a couple shots on the front nine,” he said. “But I regrouped and played really good golf on the way in.”