Rory McIlroy may have failed to capitalise on his 36-hole lead at last week’s BMW Championship but if it wasn’t for some brave spectators taking the brunt of his errant swings, he might not have come as close as he did to toppling Italian Francesco Molinari.
McIlroy was out for blood on Saturday, hitting not one, not two but three spectators en route to a one-under-par 70 and a quick trip to the confessional box.
Yet there was one positive to come out of it all. There’s been a lot of question marks over caddy Harry Diamond’s influence on McIlroy’s game of late, but I have it on good authority that Harry sat Rory down for a stern chat at dinner that night, walking 200 yards from the busy restaurant with McIlroy in tow and figurines in hand repeating the line; ‘these are small but the ones out there are far away’ as McIlroy struggled to get the grips with the concept.
However unlike Father Ted Crilly, Diamond persisted and McIlroy is said to be confident of avoiding such harrowing moments at Memorial this week, admitting that he felt a little shook after the respective incidents at the weekend.
“When you see blood, the one on 18 shook me a little bit but she reassured me she was okay,” said McIlroy. “It’s never nice. I remember playing the final round here in 2014 and Pablo Larrazabal hit a lady on the left-hand side of 11 and basically didn’t hit a shot for the rest of the round.
“It’s tough. You can say sorry and maybe give them a glove but that’s not going to do anything for them. I’m just thankful my ball didn’t go where it was heading and I just hope they’re okay.”
Only I have to respectfully disagree. I’m Rory’s biggest fan but I thought he could have done more on Saturday. After hitting the girl on 6 in the hand as he attempted a miraculous recovery from the trees, although visibly shaken, McIlroy lacked the personable touch of a Phil Mickelson that would have made all the difference.
At the Farmers Insurance Open in January, Lefty was at his erratic best and walloped a wayward one off a watching spectator. As he always does, Phil signed a glove for the wounded party with the words, ‘Next time Duck!’ written across its palm.
I would argue that such a gesture would ease the pain somewhat, while at No. 15 at Muirfield Village at the 2016 Memorial, Phil plonked a pearler on the head of an unlucky marshal yet again who was standing in the right rough. His ball ricocheted across the fairway to settle in the long stuff on the left; the marshal standing tall. Phil joked to him at the time that if the volunteer’s head was a little softer, the ball might have stayed in the fairway. Again he signed a glove with an ‘I’m so sorry’ message accompanied by a frowny face in the ‘O’.
The bruises left behind by Rory’s stray balls at the BMW were far from life-threatening and only temporary, but a classy touch like Mickelson’s glove giveaways would be a welcome memento to the victims should they ever wish to share their tale. And if the leather souvenir wasn’t enough, the talk on the high stool is that Mickelson’s apologetic token comes with one final reward; a wad of cash hiding inside to further lighten the blow.
Wait until this one makes the news and there’ll be spectators positioning themselves in Lefty’s landing zone to reap the benefits. Or maybe players could start shouting fore to save us all the bother.
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