DORAL, Fla. (AP) — Rory McIlroy rotated his hips, transferred his weight and delivered another moment that golf fans won’t soon forget.
Except that it wasn’t a shot he hit.
It was a club he threw.
McIlroy’s frustrations boiled over Friday in the Cadillac Championship with two splashes on one shot — first his ball, then his club. The world’s No. 1 player pulled a 3-iron left of the green on the par-5 eighth, and then slung the club some 50 yards into the lake.
“I just let frustration get the better of me,” McIlroy said. “It was heat of the moment. 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?'”
He leaned on self-deprecation to get him through one of the most embarrassing moments of his career, though Boy Wonder knew better. Walking up the 10th fairway, he noticed his father following outside the ropes and said he mentioned to his caddie, “Wonder what my dad’s going to say about that?”
“Looking back, it isn’t one of my proudest moments,” McIlroy said. “But you know, walked away with a bogey and regrouped and did OK.”
McIlroy made three birdies the rest of the way for a 2-under 70 to finish at 1-under 143, eight shots behind 36-hole leader J.B. Holmes.
He won in Dubai and was runner-up at Abu Dhabi before taking a month break, which included time in a Dublin court to settle lawsuits involving his former management company. Back in Florida for the road to the Masters, where he can complete the Grand Slam, McIlroy sure hasn’t looked like the golf’s best player.
He missed the cut at the Honda Classic. And then he opened with a 73 at Trump National Doral to fall 11 shots behind after the opening round. McIlroy opened with two birdies, gave them back with two bogeys and was 1 under for his round when he hit a 302-yard drive and was in great position to reach the green. Trying to play a cut, he hit a draw and it never had a chance.
Neither did the 3-iron.
McIlroy was playing with Masters champion Bubba Watson and Henrik Stenson, who has been known to throw a club, smash a tee box marker or even demolish a locker. As surprising as the moment was, Stenson had no trouble breaking the ice.
“He said, ‘Well, if you can’t get on ‘SportsCenter’ with your play, at least you can do it with something else,'” McIlroy said. “He was quite funny. He’s been prone to doing a thing or two like that in the past as well, so he can relate.”
The Swede could also appreciate the form in McIlroy’s throw.
“It was a good release, yes,” he said. “He’s a strong fellow for not the tallest guy, and he had good speed on that one, too. You know, gets to the best of us — or to all of us. … I’ve done my fair share of those kind of things over the years, so I’m not going to judge anyone on anything.”
Neither was Watson, who hit his approach to 2 feet for an eagle that got him back in the game.
“I thought it was a practice swing and the grip was wet,” Watson said with a grin. “I just don’t have any comments for that because we all get frustrated, so there’s no reason to say anything negative about it.”
McIlroy is sure to get fined for heaving the club into the water — especially that distance.
For all the humor about not needing a 3-iron or having a scuba team fish it out of the bottom of the lake, there was a measure of contrition.
“What happened after the second shot on 8 I wouldn’t encourage anyone to do, especially if there’s kids watching at home,” he said. “First of all, it’s expensive. Second of all, you shouldn’t do it. It was one of those things that was heat of the moment, and you know, we’ll move on.”
McIlroy said his game is not that far off except for mistakes that keep cluttering his scorecard. He was headed to the range — minus his 3-iron — with hopes of cleaning up his game over the weekend.
“If you would have asked me this 10 years ago as a moody teenager, it wouldn’t have been out of character,” he said. “But I think I’ve mellowed since then. It was just frustration got the better of me.”
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