One announcer couldn’t tell if the ball even moved.
“Didn’t move,” Nick Dougherty said. “Well, it moved, but it moved backwards.”
Another announcer noted the rarity.
“Ooh, you don’t see that very often,” Ken Brown said.
And the perpetrator? Rory McIlroy laughed.
The last time we saw him, McIlroy was, in loose order, trying to save the PGA Tour, winning the Tour’s big-money event, the Tour Championship, and delivering subtle jabs to the Tour’s thorn. Hero stuff. But Thursday? Thursday, he was but one of us.
At least for a shot.
Two-under through seven holes during the BMW PGA Championship first round, McIlroy went right off the tee on 8 at Wentworth Golf Club, and the historic course started to play defense. McIlroy’s ball was in the cabbage. About 100 yards ahead of him was water, and a few yards past that was the pin. About 5 yards in front of him was a slight mound. Notably, he avoided all of the trouble.
McIlroy swung violently.
The ball knuckled up.
The ball plopped back down.
It went about a foot.
The announcers were stunned. McIlroy, at first, looked down, then laughed. On his second go, he dropped his ball to 17 feet, then two-putted for a five, on his way to a four-under 68.
But back to the one-footer. And you may be wondering what happened.
A reporter phrased it delicately.
“Talking about the highlight of your round, but I have to ask you about the second shot to 8, which has to be the shortest shot you’ve ever hit with a full swing. Tell us about it from your point of view.”
“I was very surprised,” McIlroy said. “I thought if I could get enough speed into it and get steep enough on it, I could at least get it over the water and somewhere around the green and maybe get up-and-down. [Caddie] Harry [Diamond] did say to me before, he said, are you not worried about this bank in front of you, and I said no, I can get over that. Managed to get away with a bogey and hit a really good shot. Had a good look at par.
“I haven’t played with rough — I played with rough this long recently but maybe not this juicy and this wet. It just shows the club so much when you go through impact.”
From there, he played bogey free, made three birdies, including one on 18, and was generally McIlroy again. Should play resume — the event was postponed Thursday after the death of Queen Elizabeth II — he’ll start just four back of the lead.
Win again, after the victory at the Tour Championship, and that would be an accomplishment, one that a reporter also asked about.
“Players say when they come off a big win, that it’s definitely to get back up again and the adrenaline really flowing. You seem to not suffer from that. What’s the secret to that?
“I think winning gives me motivation more than anything else,” McIlroy said. “You’ve proven that you can win and you can beat the best players in the world. If you can’t get energized by that, I don’t know what will energize you. I always have this sense of excitement after a win that I’m breaking through or got to where I want to be or I’m on the right path.
“It’s good resetting goals, too. The PGA Tour season is over for me. Turn my attention to Europe. Try to win the Race to Dubai. So it’s all about — you have to enjoy your wins, too, but you have to keep resetting your goals to strive for other things.”