|Dates: 9-12 March Venue: TPC Sawgrass, Florida|
|Coverage: Live radio and text commentary on Radio 5 Sports Extra, BBC Sounds and BBC Sport website and app for final two rounds on Saturday, 11 and Sunday, 12 March|
The top three players in the world suffered contrasting fortunes as storms curtailed day two of the Players Championship at Sawgrass in Florida.
McIlroy is six over with eight holes left, while playing partner Scottie Scheffler is five under, one behind clubhouse leader Ben Griffin.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Adam Svensson lead the field on eight under.
South Africa’s Bezuidenhout has played 14 holes, while Canada’s Svensson has completed 11. Round two will resume at 07:00 (12:00 GMT) on Saturday.
McIlroy will need to produce something special if he is to keep himself in the PGA Tour’s flagship tournament that he won in 2019.
The Northern Irishman toiled to a four-over-par 76 in round one and did little to improve his chances of making the final two rounds in the 10 holes he completed on Friday.
The nadir was a double-bogey six on the par-four sixth after knocking a 43-foot birdie putt twice as far off the front of the green and taking three more from there.
The cut mark is forecast to come at either one or two over par, with the top 65 and ties playing the final two rounds.
In contrast, Scheffler cut a more serene figure as he improved his overall total to five under courtesy of successive birdies on the ninth and 10th holes.
A victory in the $25m (£21m) tournament would see Scheffler usurp Rahm, who shot a one-under 71 on Thursday before pulling out on Friday, at the top of the rankings.
While the build-up to the week was all about Rahm, Scheffler and McIlroy given they have all won this calendar year and had a spell at the top of the world rankings, there are terrific stories emerging elsewhere.
Two years ago, clubhouse leader Griffin walked away from golf to take up a career in the residential mortgage industry
“Taking a break has provided me with an awesome perspective,” he said after signing for a one-under-par 71 on Friday.
He was at eight under but dropped two shots at the 18th. Wary of the huge lake that dominates the left side of the fairway Griffin pushed his tee shot way right into rough, cannoned his second off a tree and played his third beyond the green and needed a chip and two putts from there.
Also at six under are two-time major winner Collin Morikawa, who has seven holes to play, and Australia’s Min Woo Lee who has three remaining.
Another Australian, 2016 Players champion Jason Day, whose career has been blighted by back injuries, shot a second round of 70 to sit well placed on four under. He is alongside Norway’s Viktor Hovland, who reached eight under after 11 holes but dropped four shots in his last six holes.
Overnight leader falters
American Chad Ramey shot a sensational bogey-free 64 on his Players debut to lead after round one.
And the 30-year-old, who is in his second season on the PGA Tour, reached 10 under par with birdies on the 11th and 12th holes, his second and third of round two. He gave one shot back at the 13th but still had a two-shot lead over the field when he arrived at the iconic par-three 17th.
Two balls in the water followed and a quadruple-bogey seven was marked on the card. A 30-foot putt rescued his par on the 18th but he dropped another shot on the first before the storm horn sounded to afford him a welcome break.
Englishmen in contention
Danny Willett, Masters champion in 2016, is the leading Englishman. The 35-year-old is at three under with four holes to play and looking good to make his first cut on his sixth appearance at the Players.
Debutant Aaron Rai will definitely be playing the final two rounds after a 69 helped him improve to two under, the same score as Justin Rose and Tyrrell Hatton, who will return early on Saturday to complete their rounds.
Tommy Fleetwood (level) and Callum Tarren (two over) have five holes left to ensure they stick around, but last year’s US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick looks set to be heading home on three over despite posting a creditable 71 in round two.
Scottish duo Russell Knox and Martin Laird are both definitely out. Knox had two triple bogeys in a 77 as he ended eight over, while Laird dropped eight shots in his final five holes as he signed for an 81 to finish 13 over.
Lucky Spieth rescues round while Thomas waits
Three-time major champion Jordan Spieth has missed the cut on five of his previous eight appearances at the Players and he looked to be heading out early again until an outrageous piece of fortune on the par-five ninth hole, his last of the round.
He carved his drive so far right that he asked his caddie “is that out of play” as it headed towards water. But before Michael Greller had time to answer, Spieth’s ball hit a spectator on the knee and ricocheted back on to the fairway. The American took full advantage, knocking his second just off the green and chipping in for an eagle.
It lifted him from two over to level par and certain of playing the final two rounds.
His playing partner and good friend Justin Thomas is left waiting on how Saturday morning pans out though. The 2021 Players champion birdied the eighth but missed a 16-foot birdie attempt on the ninth as he finished on two over par, and in a large group in joint 68th.