What is it with Rory McIlroy and trees at the PGA Championship? One year to the day after nearly derailing his career by trying an ill-advised shot off a root at the Atlanta Athletic Club, McIlroy had one of the strangest shots of his career, a flyer on No. 3 that floated toward a lone tree … and apparently vanished, only to be discovered in a most unusual location.
Balls ending up in trees is nothing unusual for golf, of course; Phil Mickelson put his very first shot at this year’s U.S. Open into the upper reaches of the cypresses at Olympic. But McIlroy received some favorable guidance from on high — not divine, but blimp-related. A high-def camera spotted the ball in the crook of the tree, and someone radioed down to the searchers.
“They were looking in completely the wrong place,” said spectator Rick Vance of Richmond, Va. “Everyone was looking down at the ground right up until Rory went and got it out of the tree.” McIlroy had to take an unplayable, of course, but even with the penalty stroke still managed to par the hole.
It was the most remarkable stroke of a strong front nine that saw McIlroy shave as many as five strokes off his 36-hole score of -2. He would finish the front nine at -6, tied with Vijay Singh for the lead when the rains rolled in and suspended play.
The AAC root, which we dubbed “McIlroot” in a nickname that didn’t stick, will fade into history. But if McIlroy manages to win the PGA Championship, this tree will enjoy its own brand of infamy, much like Augusta National’s Eisenhower Tree.
The 2013 PGA Championship is slated for Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y. There’s a tree there right now that’s just waiting for its shot at prime McIlroy time.