Trying to come to terms with Rory’s leaderboard admission

Mark McGowan

Rory McIlroy (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

“You’re an idiot,” Tiger Woods said to William McGirt on the practice putting green at Kiawah Island before the 2012 PGA Championship.

Woods made the comment after hearing McGirt telling Tiger’s caddie Joe LaCava that he hadn’t known where he stood at the Canadian Open earlier that year, ultimately finishing a shot behind Scott Piercy when McGirt had been in the final group.

“Tiger was hitting putts,” McGirt said, “and he looked straight up, and he said, ‘What?’ He walks over, and we’re basically nose to nose, and he says, ‘OK, spill the beans.’ I told him it was basically my first time in that situation on Tour and that I didn’t really want to screw it up by looking at leaderboards. So, we had a nice little conversation, and he goes, ‘You’re an idiot.’”

Part of that conversation was Woods asking if McGirt thought Kobe Bryant didn’t look at the scoreboard in the closing stages of a game, and though the then winless McGirt argued his point, Tiger was having none of it.

McGirt has since gone on to win on the PGA Tour, admitting that he didn’t think he’d “hit a shot without checking the leaderboard first,” and it was something I couldn’t help thinking of when I read that Rory McIlroy hadn’t known that he was leading the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday when he bogeyed the 14th.

“If I look back on today,” McIlroy said afterwards, “the one thing I’ll rue is the tee shot on 14. I birdied 13 and got on to 14 tee and I honestly thought I was still like one or two behind the lead. As I was walking to the 14th green, I looked behind me at the scoreboard, and I was leading by one. And if I had of known that, I wouldn’t have tried to play the shot that I played on 14.”

My first thoughts were that he couldn’t be serious. For a player of McIlroy’s calibre and experience not to know what was happening around him was astounding. But why would he lie? His foot had slipped when he struck his tee-shot at the par-3, so he could easily have told us that he was aiming for the middle of the green and the slip – he looked at the ground and examined the soles of his shoes afterwards – was the reason for ending up short-sided in the bunker.

Informing us that he didn’t know the lie of the land if he actually did is akin to coming home late from work and telling the missus you’ve been in the pub when you’d actually stopped to help an old lady change a tyre.

So I think we can safely take McIlroy at his word, but it’s baffling nonetheless. Okay, he’d just birdied 13 to take the solo lead, but there are giant scoreboards everywhere so it must’ve been a conscious decision not to look.

I don’t think Rory needs a pep talk from Tiger to see the error of his ways, but I can’t help but smile at the thought of Woods getting up in McIlroy’s grill on the putting green at Augusta and having some choice words for his buddy.

Then again, Rory is a well-publicised Manchester United fan so it’s maybe no surprise that he was avoiding scoreboards like a vampire avoids crosses last Sunday.

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