|Appointment: March 9-12 Place: TPC Sawgrass, Florida|
|Blanket: Live radio and text commentary on the Radio 5 Sports Extra website and app, BBC Sounds and BBC Sport for the final two rounds on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 March|
The three best players in the world enjoyed contrasting fortunes as storms cut short day two of The Players Championship at Sawgrass in Florida.
McIlroy is six over with eight holes to play, while playing partner Scottie Scheffler is five under, one behind clubhouse leader Ben Griffin.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Adam Svensson lead the pack with eight under.
South African Bezuidenhout played 14 holes, while Canadian Svensson completed 11. The second round will resume at 07:00 (12:00 GMT) on Saturday.
McIlroy will need to produce something special if he is to hold his own in the PGA Tour showpiece he won in 2019.
The Northern Irishman struggled to a 76 from four over par in the first round 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 hitting a 43-foot birdie putt twice far from the front of the green and taking three more from there.
The cut mark should be one or two over par, with top 65s and ties playing the final two rounds.
By contrast, Scheffler cut a more serene figure by improving his overall total to five thanks to successive birdies on the ninth and 10th holes.
A win in the $25m (£21m) tournament would see Scheffler usurp Rahm, who shot a minus 71 on Thursday before retiring at the top of the standings on Friday.
While the build-up to the week was all about Rahm, Scheffler and McIlroy as they all won this calendar year and climbed to the top of the world rankings, some great stories are emerging elsewhere.
Two years ago club frontman Griffin quit golf to pursue a career in the residential mortgage business
“Taking a break provided me with an impressive prospect,” he said after signing for a 71-under par on Friday.
He was eight under but lost two shots on the 18th. Wary of the huge lake that dominates the left side of the fairway, Griffin drove his tee shot straight into the rough, cannonaded his second into 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 big winner Collin Morikawa, who has seven holes to play, and Australia’s Min Woo Lee who has three to play.
Another Aussie, 2016 Players Champion Jason Day, whose career was blighted by back injuries, shot a second-round 70 to sit well-placed on four under. He is alongside Norway’s Viktor Hovland, who hit eight under after 11 holes but lost four shots in his last six holes.
The overnight leader falters
American Chad Ramey shot a sensational bogey-free 64 on his Players debut to lead after the first round.
And the 30-year-old, in his second season on the PGA Tour, went 10-under with birdies on the 11th and 12th holes, his second and third of the second round. He gave a shot back at the 13th but still had a two-stroke lead on the field when he arrived at the iconic par-three 17th.
Two water shots followed and a quadruple bogey seven was scored on the board. A 30-foot putt saved his par on the 18th, but he dropped another shot on the first before the storm horn sounded to give him a welcome break.
The English in the running
Danny Willett, champion of the Masters in 2016, is the English leader. The 35-year-old is down to three under with four holes to play and looks set to make his first cut in his sixth Players appearance.
Debutant Aaron Rai will certainly play the final two rounds after a 69 helped him 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 ready to heading home on three over despite a creditable 71 in the second round.
The Scottish duo Russell Knox and Martin Laird are definitely absent. Knox had two triple bogeys in a 77 as he finished eight over, while Laird dropped eight shots in his final five holes as he signed for an 81 to finish 13 over.
Lucky Spieth saves the round while Thomas waits
Three-time Major champion Jordan Spieth has missed the cut in five of his previous eight Players appearances and looked to be off to an early start until an outrageous fortune on the par-five ninth hole, his last of the round.
He cut his drive so far right that he asked his caddy ‘is that offside’ as he headed for the water. But before Michael Greller had time to respond, Spieth’s ball hit a spectator in the knee and ricocheted down the fairway. The American took full advantage, hitting his second just off the green and contributing for an eagle.
This took him from two to normal and certain to play the final two rounds.
His playing partner and good friend Justin Thomas, however, is waiting to hear how Saturday morning will go. 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 big group at the 68th joint.