On Friday at the PGA Championship at Harding Park, San Francisco, most of the talk wasn’t about the leader but instead people were commenting on Rory McIlroy’s great display of integrity.
(Picture taken at the Irish Open at Royal County Down – when crowds were normal!)
The incident occurred on the par-three third, after the world No 3 had sliced his tee shot into the thick rough. Although there aren’t spectators at the event, a search involving the media ensued, during which an on-course ESPN reporter unwittingly stepped on Rory’s ball. Under the recently introduced Rule 7.4, Rory was allowed to re-place it, without penalty, based on an “estimate” of where it was initially. The rules official pointed to an appropriate area and Rory duly placed his ball.
Rory could have gone on to try to save par, but he felt uncomfortable with this and said to the referee: “It would not have been as visible as that” so he bent down and buried it a little further in the long rough. The best he could manage from that lie was a pitch to within 22 feet, from where he two-putted for a bogey. Suddenly, the clapping emoji appeared all over social media and four hours later, when he could eventually explain his thought process, he was still being congratulated.
“I just wouldn’t have felt comfortable,” McIlroy said after signing for a 69. “I placed it, and the rule is try to replicate the lie. No one really knew what the lie was, but if everyone is going around looking for it, it obviously wasn’t too good. So I placed it, I was like, that just doesn’t look right to me. So I just placed it down a little bit.”
“You know, at the end of the day, golf is a game of integrity and I never try to get away with anything out there. I’d rather be on the wrong end of the rules rather than on the right end.”
Although Rory won’t be taking away the PGA Trophy from the Californian course, there is absolutely no doubt that he will be leaving with his reputation enhanced amongst the golfing purists.
Rory’s actions reminded me of Darren Clarke at the 2006 Irish Open. Leading by two when play was stopped because of bad weather on the Sunday evening, Darren returned the next morning to the spot on the ninth where his ball had finished after a wayward drive moments before the hooter had sounded. Believe it or not, the elves had been at work overnight and what had been a poor lie was now so decent that the crowd favourite could reach the green. However Darren refused to accept his good fortune, electing to chip it out into the fairway instead. “That’s part and parcel of the game,” he later said after finishing third. “It was a much better lie than when I left it. I had the opportunity to hit it on to the green, but my conscience wouldn’t allow that.”