Rory McIlroy struggled to get to grips with the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in his first round since signing a long-term club deal with TaylorMade.

The Northern Irishman had a mixed bag of nine pars, five birdies, two bogeys and two doubles on his way to a scrappy one over 73.

At one point it was looking like a battle to make the cut was more likely than challenge for his first Players Championship title.

Walking on to the first tee, it was his Nike shoes though which drew most of the early attention.

Rory Players

We’ve been reliably informed that these are ‘baby blue’ Nike Lunar Control Vapors and the jury seems to be out on this particular colour combo.

Heading into this week, McIlory, who hasn’t played since the Masters, put a TaylorMade UDI 1-iron in the bag as there are a number of holes where players won’t hit driver.

But hitting fairways was a problem for McIlroy when he opted for his M2 Tour 3-wood or the long iron off the tee – rather than his new M2 driver.

Rory Players

The M2 driver seemed to be the most reliable option as he made birdies on the par-5 2nd, 9th and 16th – all after unleashing a 300-yard plus drive with his new big stick.

Rory Players

Double bogeys on 10 and 14 were the result of errant tee shots with iron and fairway wood respectively.

Bogeys on the 1st and 7th both came after missing the fairway.

Rory Players

His wedge play with the TaylorMade Milled Grind wedges seemed fairly solid with a great up and down for birdie on the driveable par-4 12th.

This was one of the best tee shots he hit with the M2 Tour 3-wood, leaving himself 65ft on the 303-yard hole.

McIlroy was still using his Odyssey Prototype putter – TaylorMade have said they are still working with him to find the best model.

And he holed a superb put for birdie on the last after finding the green in regulation.

It was a scratchy performance but he’s not played tournament golf for some time, has just got married and is using a bag full of new gear.

The two birdies in his final four holes will give him confidence going into round two where it will be interesting to see if he sticks to the conservative approach off the tee…