McIlroy shot 7-under-par 65 to grab a share of the opening-round lead at the Masters.
Less than 12 hours before his tee time, he was — of all things — out in the street throwing around a football and disturbing the neighbors.
Ah, the innocence of youth.
“Went to the mall last night with a couple buddies,” the 21-year-old McIlroy explained. “I sort of got into American football from being over here and just wanted to learn how to throw it a little bit better. We bought a football and threw it around a little bit. Passes the time.”
Passing was all they were doing. Nobody was running patterns.
“I wouldn’t,” McIlroy said. “I don’t even know what that means.”
McIlroy said he’s getting the hang of a spiral — “thumb down, right?” — but the passing practice got cut short by a neighbor who expected to be staying in a quiet neighborhood.
“I was actually told off by the lady living across the street we were making a bit too much noise,” he said. “She just asked if we were staying in one of the houses and I just said ‘we’re staying in this one’. I said ‘sorry, we’ll go inside now’.”
Apparently, the woman didn’t recognize McIlroy, but the Northern Irish lad didn’t go completely unnoticed.
Alvaro Quiros, the Spaniard who eventually tied McIlroy for the lead, recognized him walking around the mall with his family. And apparently, according to Quiros, McIlory and his buddies starting tossing around “the rugby ball” as Quiros called it in the parking lot before taking it home.
“He was doing terrible,” Quiros reported of McIlroy’s skills.
As a quarterback. Not a golfer.
• RULES CHANGE: Players who get disqualified for rules violations caught by slow-motion cameras, high def TV or an eagle-eyed viewer in the grille got some relief Thursday.
The worldwide governing bodies of the game have revised the scorecard disqualification rule in certain limited and admittedly rare circumstances to only assess a penalty associated with the error.
“This is a logical and important step in our re-evaluation of the impact of high-definition video on the game,” USGA executive director Mike Davis said. “We collectively believe that this revised decision addresses many video-related issues never contemplated by the Rules of Golf.”
“This carefully considered decision reflects our desire to ensure that the Rules of Golf remain fair and relevant in the changing environment in which the game is played today,” said R&A chief executive Peter Dawson.
The rule change applies to violations players might not have been aware of at the time they occurred. Disqualification remains the penalty for scorecard errors arising from the ignorance of the Rules of Golf.
The “very narrowly interpreted” revision to Decision 33-7/4.5 had been “in the works” for the past couple months. It was announced right before the start of Thursday’s opening round of the Masters, not because of the urgency of the event, Davis said, but because officials from the two bodies were able to meet face-to-face earlier this week.
“And we didn’t want to wait to the next rules cycle to change,” Davis said.
The change was in response to recent outcries of player DQs following the revelation of rules infractions caught on camera and perhaps unknown to players at the time. Davis said he expected the number of committees able to use the ruling would be “very, very small.”
Dustin Johnson was DQ’d for signing an incorrect scorecard after TV replays showed he grounded his club in a bunker on the 72nd hole of the PGA Championship.
Padraig Harrington was DQ’d from the Abu Dhabi Championship in January for signing a wrong scorecard in his first round after a TV viewer alerted tournament officials to a violation on the seventh green where it showed Harrington’s ball slightly out of its original position. Had the revision been in effect, he would have assessed a penalty and remained in the competition.
“It’s a small change, but a good change,” Harrington said. “It’s only in the case where a player could not have been aware, so it’s, you know, it’s hard to see. I would say we could wait a lifetime before we see another instance exactly like that one.”
Camilo Villegas was DQ’d this year in Hawaii when a TV viewer aided by replay complained he moved a blade of grass near a divot while his ball was still in motion. He would have remained DQ’d if the rules change had been in effect.
• OH NO, NO. 1: It was a tough day for the world’s No. 1 player.
Martin Kaymer shot 78 and is in danger of missing the cut for the fourth straight year. This is a player who is No. 1 in the world and winner of the last major who changed his swing to facilitate hitting a draw here and changed his pre-tournament routine in hopes of changing his fortunes here.
He hit 13 greens, six fairways and had two three-putts.
“Every day that I played here was a tough day so far,” he said. “I was disappointed, because there’s some golf courses that suit you and some they just don’t.”
• ‘DECENT SHOT’: Retief Goosen dropped the first lightning bolt of the tournament when he eagled No. 1, holing an 8-iron from 161 yards. “Decent shot,” he said.
There had been only four eagles on the opening hole previously in Masters history.
Scott Verplank was the last to do it — in the first round of 1987. He wound up shooting 76 and eventually missed the cut.
Roberto DeVicenzo did in 1968 (Round 4), the year he famously signed an incorrect scorecard giving Bob Goalby the Masters title. Takaai Kono (1970, Round 3) and Frank Moore (1940) had the others.
Goosen shot 70 Thursday after having it to 5-under through 16. On the other end of the scoreboard, Henrik Stenson made a record-setting 8 on the par-3 fourth. The old high was 7, held by four players, as recently as Doug Ford in 2000.
• DÉJÀ VU AGAIN: It’s a bit like 2009 again for Ross Fisher, but in some ways different.
That year, he was playing in a major — the British Open — and his wife was expecting. This year, he’s playing in a major and his wife is expecting.
In 2009, he held a two-shot lead in the early stages of the final round at Turnberry before making 8 on the fifth hole. After a first-round 69 here Thursday, he’s obviously hoping for a different result on the golf course.
“It’s completely different because it’s our second,” he said. “The first one was due the week of The Open (and delivered later) whereas the second one is due after.
“So, hopefully not like last time, she hung on and I didn’t, so hopefully I can hang on this time.”
this morning and just decided to go with that one.”