ATLANTA (AP) — This is one shot even the great Rory McIlroy had no chance to hit.
His golf ball landed in a spectator’s pocket.
McIlroy’s tee shot on the 14th hole of the Tour Championship on Friday drifted to the right, clattered into a tree and dropped straight down. A dozen or so fans tried to figure out where it was before one man realized it was in the front right pocket of his shorts.
The world’s No. 1 player was entitled to a free drop under Rule 19-1-a — “Ball in motion stopped or deflected by an outside agency” — and rules official Robby Ware first had to make sure the man had not moved from when he discovered the ball in his pocket.
The tough part was how to get the ball out.
“I wasn’t going in there,” McIlroy said with a laugh after a 65 left him two shots out of the lead. “I know how sweaty my pockets are. I’m not going in anyone else’s.”
Someone in the gallery suggested the spectator keep the ball until Ware said, “He’s going to need that one.”
McIlroy took a drop as near as possible to where the man had been standing, knocked it onto the green and escaped with par.
“That ball could have hit the tree and went anywhere,” McIlroy said. “I just felt fortunate I was able to drop it there and make a par.”
It was bizarre, but not uncommon.
Last year at Oak Hill in the third round of the PGA Championship, Jonas Blixt of Sweden hit a tee shot on the 18th hole that wound up in a spectator’s back pocket. He went on to birdie the hole.
McIlroy said it happened to him this year at Royal Aberdeen.
“I had a ball go up someone’s pant leg at the Scottish Open,” he said. “Second time. I just need to stop hitting it off line and these things won’t happen. I got a lucky break there.”