TV analysts rip Rory McIlroy for decision. He made birdie anyway

Rory McIlroy smiles at TPC Lousiana.

Rory McIlroy made a questionable decision at the Zurich Classic Saturday.

Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

It’s a simple strategy in better ball: One player gets a ball in play and then the second player, usually the more confident off the tee, bashes away.

Looking at the team of Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry at this week’s Zurich Classic, no offense to Lowry, but it’s pretty clear who should be the one bashing away.

As CBS analyst Trevor Immelman described it, McIlroy was “pulling driver, left, right and center all day long from every tee” Saturday. On the 15th hole, McIlroy had left himself just a pitching wedge on the 497-yard par-4.

And the 16th hole at TPC Lousiana would probably be a perfect site for McIlroy and Lowry to employ the strategy.

During a segment explaining the risk-reward value of the 355-yard par-4, Immelman said PGA Tour simulations showed that players who hit a longer drive, over the bunker and to the right of the pond at the end of the fairway, make birdie 35 percent of the time, while just 14 percent of players who hit a shorter tee shot, short of the water, make a 3.

“I think because McIlroy drives it so well, they’ll identify him as the guy to go ahead and try and send it as far down as he can,” Immelman said. “And that will be the better decision.”

Except that wasn’t the decision. When the camera came back to the World No. 2 on the tee, he was taking practice swings with an iron.

“He didn’t hear one word you said, Trevor,” said on-course reporter Dottie Pepper.

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“Dottie, go and catch him before he hits this ball, please,” Immelman said. “Now he’s laying back? I’m going to have to talk to him later.”

Of course, Pepper couldn’t stop McIlroy from sending the long iron into the middle of the fairway, 108 yards from the hole. It was a fine shot, but McIlroy and Lowry, who had started the day in a tie for the lead, were now four shots back with three holes to go in the third round. Immelman and Pepper figured why not be aggressive on the short hole?

Lowry seemed to be following the same thinking when he stepped on the tee also with an iron. But after talking with his caddie, Darren Reynolds, Lowry went back to his bag and pulled a head cover off a club. Except it wasn’t the driver. It was a 3-wood.

“This baffles me,” Pepper said. “I think you gotta go one way or the other. This brings the skinniest part [of the fairway] in, I think.”

Lowry pulled his tee shot straight through the fairway and into the water.

“That is a really, really bad play right there,” Immelman said. “I mean, if you’re going to lay up, lay up.”

“That was a bad decision and a bad play,” Pepper continued.

After watching the ball splash in the drink, Lowry tossed his club aside and headed for the restroom next to the tee.

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“I actually think the better decision would have been for him to go to the restroom before he pulled that wrong club there,” Immelman joked.

As the pair began walking down the fairway, the 2008 Masters champ wondered allowed why Lowry didn’t play first, lay up and then let McIlroy have a go at the green.

“Just surprising that — this best-ball format, it’s about identifying each player’s weapon and then putting them in a spot to go ahead and use that,” Immelman continued. “Everybody on the planet who has any clue about golf knows that Rory McIlroy is one of the best drivers of the ball. He should have been ripping driver there.”

With Lowry out of the hole, McIlroy knocked his wedge about 20 feet short and right of the pin. Not a great opportunity on a hole that was playing more than a third of a stroke under par.

But it was too early to count out McIlroy. He poured in the putt.

“They did it the hard way,” analyst Frank Nobilo said.

McIlroy and Lowry got one more birdie on the 18th to post a 64 and sit at 21 under, two back in a tie for fourth, heading into the final round Sunday.

Jack Hirsh Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at



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