Rory McIlroy had a beautiful reason for not being fully focussed on his game during round three of the BMW Championship tied for the lead in Chicago.
McIlroy and his wife, Erica are expecting their first child but not in some six months nor in six weeks but in a matter of days.
The McIlroy’s, Rory aged 31 and wife, Erica aged 29, have advised just family and the closest of friends of the news with McIlroy confirming at Olympia Fields that the baby is due ‘any day now’.
If so, McIlroy indicated he will be headed straight for home no matter where he is competing, whether that be over the final day in Chicago or next week in Atlanta.
The third round of the BMW Championship belonged to Dustin Johnson and his third round playing partner Hideki Matsuyama who matched each other in posting one-under par 69s to be now headed into the last day of the $US 9.5m event at one-under par.
Three players – Aussie Adam Scott (70), Canadian Mackenzie Hughes (69) and Chilean Joaquin Niemann (68) – are two shots further back at one-over par.
McIlroy, who headed into the traditional ‘moving day’ sharing the lead at one-under, dropped five places in a disappointing three-over par 73 to be sharing sixth place at two-over par.
In fact, the toughness of the Olympia Fields course sees no fewer than 25 players within six shots of the leading duo.
Johnson won last week’s ‘joke’ Northern Trust course set-up by 11 shots thanks to a ridiculous 30-under par tally whereas after three rounds on a ‘real’ layout, the current World No. 1 has managed just eight birdies over three rounds.
‘DJ’ was asked post his third round the difference between last week and this week’s host venues.
“This golf course just demands different kind of shots and pars,” he said.
“It’s a completely different golf course, completely different conditions. It’s pretty easy to get into the mindset of 4-under is a good score.
“This is a pretty much a major championship venue, obviously, and the conditions, the way it’s set up, it’s playing just like a major.”
Of course, Johnson is now projected to head to next week’s East Lake season-ended as the FedEx Cup No. 1 but with McIlroy, who ended day two in Chicago projected to jump from 12th to second, now projected to move-up just one place to 11th.
After all the positives of the first two rounds, it was a day of disappointment for McIlroy with the scorecard showing just two birdies but also five bogeys, and while every dropped shot hurts, the bogey on the 18th really brought pain for the current World No. 4
McIlroy was staring at a seven-footer but failed to hit the hole, with McIlroy visibly annoyed in putting his hand over his face and throwing down his left arm in disgust.
“I played okay. I probably didn’t drive it as well as I did the first couple of days, which put me out of position,” he said.
“And then from there, it’s so tough to get it close. I had nine birdies through the first two days and only had two birdies today. So yeah, I just didn’t drive it in the fairway enough to give myself enough looks.
“I felt like I hung in there and I was sort of scrappy, some good two-putts on the back nine. Sort of got on a nice run of pars there after 11, and then it was just a shame to bogey the last. It would have been nice to go into tomorrow one closer to the lead, but I think I’m still right in the thick of things.
“If I can get off to a decent start tomorrow, hopefully I’ll be right there.”
Better news for McIlroy was official confirmation his wife, Erica is expecting the couple’s first child as early as next week during the Tour Championship.
Also sharing sixth place is Spaniard Jon Rahm who had no answer as to why he had both his golf ball and his marker in hand on the fifth green on day three of the BMW Championship in Chicago.
The double Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and double Spanish Open winner simply had a brain fade in picking-up his ball but with his marker in his pocket.
Rahm had to call a stroke penalty on himself in recording the only bogey of his round but then went onto produce a four-under par 66 to move inside the top-10 at two-over par.
“Honestly, I can’t tell you what happened at five,” he said.
“For those that don’t know, I hit it 30, 40 feet short right of line and was holding my marker in my pocket, just went at it, and for some reason I just picked up the ball thinking I marked it already. I was thinking of somebody else and something else or somebody, and yeah, I just picked up the ball without marking it, simple as that.
“Once I replaced it, I took the penalty and moved on.
“I’m proud of being able to maintain my composure afterwards. I think the most important shot of the round was that second putt, the six-footer for bogey. Technically it helped out a lot. I was able to tell myself I was 1-under par through five holes. It’s not easy; the first few holes aren’t playing that easy today. Just more so proud that I was able to pull it off afterwards.
“I really can’t give you an explanation. It’s one of those things that happen in golf. Never thought it would happen in my professional career, but here we are.”
Twenty-one years ago, Germany’s Bernhard Langer did the same thing on the 72nd green of the 1999 Greg Norman Holden Classic in Sydney and in the process ‘handed’ victory to a totally gob-smacked Michael Long of New Zealand in the co-sanctioned European and Australasian Tour event.
And no issue with a marker for American Corey Conners when he aced the par-3 sixth hole in a round of 70 for a five-over par tally to be just outside the top-20.
Full scoring HERE