DORAL, Fla. – Rory McIlroy can even hurl a golf club better than the rest of the world.
Check the form, the spine angle, the lag and the release. Perfect. But then what else would one expect from the world No. 1?
In McIlroy’s defense, things were already not going well for him when he arrived in the middle of the eighth fairway Friday afternoon at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. He was 1 under for the day and some 226 yards from the hole on the par 5 when his 3-iron second shot sailed left and into one of the Blue Monster’s ubiquitous water hazards.
What happened next was all at once impressive, familiar and, yes, humorous.
McIlroy flawlessly hurled the offending 3-iron 60 yards into the water. He reloaded and hit his next shot to 55 feet for a two-putt bogey, his third miscue of the day.
“It was a good release. He’s a strong fellow and he had good speed on that one,” joked Henrik Stenson, who was in the same group as McIlroy on Friday at Doral “I’ve done my fair share of these things.”
Stenson holds a metaphorical master’s degree when it comes to club abuse – the Swede has snapped golf clubs at the 2011 U.S. Open, ‘13 BMW Championship and last year’s Open Championship. So when McIlroy’s temper, which he said had more to do with his play than a demanding Blue Course, got the best of him, his playing partner was quick to offer some comic relief.
“It’s a big issue we don’t have enough baby powder out there and clubs keep slipping out of our hands,” Stenson said, tongue firmly planted in cheek. “It’s an art [club throwing], it takes years of experience and training.”
Stenson was the first person to venture a conversation with McIlroy after the incident, telling him, “Well, if you can't get on SportsCenter with your play, at least you can do it with something else.”
Players were sympathetic to McIlroy’s plight, most having dealt with the same demons at one time or another in their careers, not to mention an overall distaste for a redesigned Blue Monster that has left the world’s best players feeling like they’ve just been worked over by a U.S. Open venue.
“Nice,” Keegan Bradley said when told of McIlroy’s adventure on No. 8. “This course will do it. It’s as mentally challenging as you can play.”
McIlroy seemed embarrassed by the episode, but as is normally the case, he took a measured approach when asked about it after his round of 70 left him tied for 11th place.
“Felt good at the time,” he shrugged. “Look, I just let frustration get the better of me. It was heat of the moment, and I mean, if it had been any other club I probably wouldn't have but I didn't need a 3‑iron for the rest of the round so I thought, why not?”
Clubs flying through the air on a golf course, even a PGA Tour layout, is nothing new. Happens every day. It happened to McIlroy just two years ago at the U.S. Open at Merion, when the Northern Irishman threw a club after a particularly bad shot at the fifth hole on Sunday and bent another on his way to a tie for 41st.
It happened last year at Doral to Justin Rose in almost the exact same spot on the eighth fairway. But the Englishman’s toss had a much better ending.
During the third round of last year’s WGC-Cadillac Championship, Rose pulled his second shot at the par 5 into the water and proceeded to toss his 3-wood into the same murky abyss.
Rose bogeyed No. 8 and the ninth before hitting his drive into the middle of the 10th fairway, which sits just across the same lake from the eighth hole, and was promptly informed by his caddie, Mark Fulcher, that he had a perfect 3-wood yardage into the par 5.
As player and caddie ruminated over the situation they noticed a club had washed up on the bank on the 10th hole side of the lake, carried back to its rightful owner by the wind.
“[Fulcher] went and got it and we hit the 3-wood into the middle of [No.] 10 green,” Rose laughed as he recounted the story on Friday. “I threw it almost across the lake.
“We laughed about it. It’s turned into a great story. Obviously, you should never throw clubs and I don’t condone it, but it turned into one of the more humorous moments of our career.”
Friday’s toss likely won’t be a highlight of McIlroy’s career, but it was certainly humorous and his form was flawless, just what one would expect from the world’s best.