Wednesday 21 August 2019

McIlroy makes the most of lucky bounces to share lead

Rory McIlroy chips onto the 18th green on day three of the golf PGA Championship at Wentworth Photo: AFP/Getty
Rory McIlroy chips onto the 18th green on day three of the golf PGA Championship at Wentworth Photo: AFP/Getty

James Corrigan

It was a day Rory McIlroy would prefer to forget - and so would at least two of his female supporters. Never mind seeing his three-shot lead overhauled at the BMW PGA Championship, the Irishman watched two of his shots hurtle into spectators, causing both to require medical attention. A marshall was also hit by a ball because of McIlroy's wayward aim.

As he comforted the woman on the side of the 18th fairway - who by then had her bloodied head wrapped in a bandage - McIlroy must have felt like he was on the set of Casualty, not in the picturesque scenery of the BMW PGA Championship.

On the sixth, his recovery shot from a bush cannoned into a young lady from short range and she proceeded to wail in agony clutching her hand.

He apologised on both occasions, but as there were no shouts of fore on the final hole - or on the 17th, when the crowd was only saved by a steward's body getting in the way - he predictably came in for some heat on social media.

In all this, the details of his 71 - which was actually extremely valiant considering his erratic play - were overshadowed, as was the fact he is level with Francesco Molinari on 13-under going into the final round.

On the incident on the 18th, McIlroy explained why he kept silent on the tee. "I didn't think it was going to carry that far," he said. "It was into the wind and it was 275 (yards) to the bunker with a three-wood so I thought it was going to pitch into the bunker and I didn't think anyone was in danger. That obviously wasn't the case."

The Ulsterman conceded that these grisly incidents helped his scorecard. "Those balls were going deep into the trees or out-of-bounds," he said. "I got very fortunate, got very fortunate; I got good bounces off spectators and I made the most of it."

Indeed, he did. He was three-over for his round after six holes and was not swinging it well in the windy conditions. He birdied the final two par-fives after his "breaks", allowing him to claw back Molinari, who had stolen a two-shot advantage with his bogeyless magnificence. There are four shots back to the chasing group, including defending champion Alex Noren and Englishman Ross Fisher.

So much for this being a procession. Lee Westwood suspected it might not be as clear-cut as some imagined. "I figured if the breeze got up Rory might have a chance of dropping a few shots," he said. "He scores really well if it's soft and not a lot of wind. Over the first couple of days it was ideal for him and if it stayed like that it was hard to see him being caught."

Instead on eight-under, Westwood has another opportunity to win the trophy that has eluded him in 25 years of trying, with two runners-ups to his name. If it happened now at the age of 45, it would verge on the remarkable - this is Westwood's second event in 15 weeks.


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