British Open Notebook: Wild finish for McElroy
The British Open notebook ...
LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England — Rory McIlroy bounced a tee shot off a spectator’s head and wound up making double bogey. Then he bounced back with two birdies in the last three holes to put himself back in contention at the British Open.
When McIlroy went in search of his drive at No. 15, he wasn’t expecting anything worse than a tough lie. Instead, at the end of his wild slice, he discovered a bloodied teenager with a bandaged head and his golf ball out of bounds — by a few inches — next to a burger stand.
The 16-year-old spectator, Jason Blue, from Bristol, got a considerable bruise and an autographed glove for his troubles. In addition to an apology, McIlroy drew a smiley face on the souvenir.
“If he could have headed it the other way, it would have been in the fairway,” McIlroy joked as he recalled the incident.
“The most important thing was that he was OK. Because I would have felt terrible if it had have been worse than what it was.”
McIlroy did have to return some 300 yards to the tee to hit his third shot and wound up making 6, which knocked him temporarily off the leaderboard. But the No. 2-ranked Northern Irishman proceeded to birdie two of the last three holes to finish off a 3-under 67 and get back within three shots of the lead held by Adam Scott of Australia.
Organizers said Blue was treated at the scene by medics and didn’t need to be taken to a hospital. In fact, he was more concerned about where McIlroy’s ball ended up than his injury.
“He told me it was OK,” McIlroy said. He didn’t even know there was out of bounds on that side of the fairway.
“Yeah, I was a little shocked about that,” he said. “But what can you do?”
McIlroy, to his credit, didn’t let the commotion faze him.
“An eventful last four holes, anyway,” he said.
A BIRDIE THAT COUNTED: Brandt Snedeker had to settle for a birdie on the 16th, but at least it counted.
In a practice round Wednesday afternoon, trying to figure out the line if conditions favored hitting a driver on the 336-yard hole, Snedeker made a hole-in-one for an albatross. "Complete waste of a great shot because it does me no good in a practice round," Snedeker said.
"It's a great short par-4 hole because it's a blind shot off the tee. I definitely think whoever wins this tournament is going to play that hole pretty significantly under par."
CLARKE’S DEFENSE: Darren Clarke had no excuses for not making much of a defense.
The winner last year at Royal St. George's, he began this Open with a beautiful tee shot to 8 feet, and the birdie putt never had a chance. He bogeyed the next two holes, and Clarke was on his way to a 76.
"I'm basically disgusted with myself," Clarke said.
DIVOTS: Tom Watson continues to defy his age. The 62-year-old Watson, who lost in a playoff at Turnberry three years ago, was 1 under until two bogeys on the last three holes for a 71. ... Only three players who led after the first round in the Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes have gone on to win: Seve Ballesteros in 1988, Gary Player in 1974 and Peter Thomson in 1958. ... Tiger Woods made a birdie on the par-3 opening hole. The last time he began a British Open with a birdie also was in 2001 at Royal Lytham. ... Zach Johnson, one shot out of the lead after a 65, can join Lee Trevino as the only players to win the British Open the week after a PGA Tour victory. Trevino won the Canadian Open in 1971 and the Open the following week at Royal Birkdale.
PHIL-ING BAD: Lytham was there for the taking — as long as the tee shots found the fairway.
Phil Mickelson, a runner-up at Royal St. George's last year, went from the left rough to the right rough on the par-5 seventh to make double bogey on the easy hole at Lytham. On the next hole, he tried to hit wedge out of a pot bunker and it got snagged in high grass just over the lip. A small search party nearly didn't find it, and Mickelson had to take a penalty shot to drop it back in the fairway.
"I putted poorly today and I drove it horrific and the chipping was below average," he said.