McIlroy moves into pole position
Golf:Shots define champions. Seve Ballesteros out of the car park at Lytham in 1979. Tiger Woods’s chip to the 16th in the Masters of 2005. What will it be from the US PGA Championshop at Kiawah Island? If Rory McIlroy – tied for the lead with Viajy Singh – goes on to win the weather-interrupted final Major of the season, will it be the tee-shot that lodged into a decaying tree that becomes the iconic image?
Before a storm came in to halt the third round of the US PGA at Kiawah Island, forcing the championship committee to abandon play for the day and those left to finish their third rounds handed early-morning returns to the Ocean Course to get the job done, McIlroy had created a storm of his own in knocking in five birdies in eight holes in an aggressive charge towards the title.
McIlroy had birdies on the first, second, fifth, seventh and eighth holes – before a bogey on the ninth blighted his card – but the defining incident came on the driveable Par 4 third where his tee-shot lodged under the bark of a tree branch.
“I got up there and I knew the line of the ball was right on the tree. I was just like, ‘well, if it hit the tree, I'm sure it's just somewhere around here in these long grass things or in the wood chip or whatever’.
We'd been looking for it for maybe about three minutes and then one of the guys that was working for the TV came over and said, ‘you know, it's actually stuck in the tree’.
“I’'m like,’ how can it be stuck in this thing? There's no branches, no leaves for it to be stuck in’. But it had wedged itself in between the tree bark and the actual tree, so I was just happy to get it up and down for four and move on to the next. I thought it was very important to do that,” recalled McIlroy.
Indeed, that par save gave McIlroy as much momentum as any of the birdies and, when the play was suspended for the day, he had played the front nine in 32 strokes and joined Singh, who completed seven holes, on six-under-par for the championship.
On a good moving day for the Irish players, McIlroy led the charge. But he had considerable back-up. Graeme McDowell was two-under on his round through 11 holes (and on that mark for the championship) when his round was interrupted by the dark storm clouds that had been forecast, while Pádraig Harrington just about got his round completed – a 69 for 215, one under – that moved him into tied-11th.