Rory McIlroy wasn’t having the round of his life, but he was grinding it out — until he reached the Bear Trap. Just a day earlier, he cruised through the intimidating stretch of finishing holes, carding two birdies in the last four, and dodged missing his first cut since last year’s US Open. On Saturday in the third round of the Honda Classic, Rory had a completely different experience, carding three consecutive double-bogeys on Nos. 15-17. He scraped by with a par on 18 to end up signing for a seven-over 77. Which sucks, but I was impressed with Rory’s demeanor after the disastrous finish.
Most the time when players make three straight doubles and shoot 77, it’s wise to steer clear of at least a 20-yard radius (obviously, there are exceptions and depends on the situation). I mean, what’s there to say? I hit some bad shots and it sucks. Of course, you can gauge the situation, but anyway, I ran into Rory’s manager Stuart Cage on the putting green as Rory walked up after signing autographs for a good ten minutes.
He looked a little dejected, but mustered a smile and said to me, “Not wearing the boot!”
Stuart asked him about running into trouble.
From 163 yards on the par-3 No. 15, Rory took a poor swing at a five-iron against the strong wind. “It never had a chance,” he said. “It got caught in the wind and dropped straight in.”
On the equally intimidating par-3 No. 17, Rory pulled a six-iron from only 154 yards, but it wasn’t enough club and dropped in the water. Asked if the wind was stronger than on Friday, he said yes before correcting himself and explaining that it was blowing from a different direction than it was in the first two rounds — instead of coming across from the northeast, it was more from the north (in other words, the wind was gusting straight into his face instead of across from the left).
I asked jokingly if he at least made it to the midway point of the hazard. Rory, smiling, replied, “Yeah, but just barely past halfway.” (It was more like 10 yards short.)
“From the drop area, I had 121 yards and hit an 8-iron,” said Rory in disbelief. “Barely made it there.”
The 21-year-old Ulsterman seemed bewildered, not to mention humbled. “I can’t believe I was hitting 6-iron from 150 yards,” he said. “But I guess it should have been a 5.”
It happens. I was impressed with Rory’s attitude, which I think says a lot about his character. Even with players I know well, I keep my distance from them and let them cool down if they’ve had a tough time on the links. Rory’s always come across like a nice, down-to-earth guy in his press conferences I’ve attended. It’s not that often a top player acts the same when the cameras and microphones are turned off.
(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)