Rory McIlroy’s first PGA Tour round of 2023 took an astonishing turn on Thursday at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
The Northern Irishman stormed out of the gates, reaching six under par through 14 holes at Spyglass Hill to lead the tournament. But it all unraveled quickly from there.
- Rory McIlroy was leading the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am after 14 holes at 6-under par
- He then had a disastrous finish, with 3 straight bogeys and a triple bogey 8
- McIlroy was assessed a 2-shot penalty for an illegal drop on the par-5 7th hole
- He didn’t know that the rule for taking relief from an unplayable lie changed in 2023
- The new rule requires drops to be taken on a direct line from the flagstick
McIlroy carded three consecutive bogeys beginning on the par-4 6th, his momentum suddenly halted. Still, he found disaster on the par-5 7th, where an attempt to take relief from an unplayable lie in thick rough would incur a shocking two-stroke penalty.
Here’s what transpired:
- McIlroy pulled his tee shot deep into troublesome foliage and correctly deemed his ball unplayable.
- However, the drop he proceeded to take violated a technical rule change from January 2023 regarding proper procedure.
- Whereas before players could drop on a line extending straight back from an unplayable spot, now drops must originate right along that line—no leeway to either side.
- Unaware of the adjustment, McIlroy erred by taking relief slightly right of his direct line to the hole.
Rory McIlroy has been assessed a two-stroke penalty after this drop on the par-5 seventh hole. pic.twitter.com/7PtnytRc5t
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 1, 2024
The blunder turned his bogey into a triple and dashed McIlroy from first to outside the top 40 in one fell swoop. “I took an unplayable and I took it back online. Then unbeknown to me the rule changed,” a bewildered McIlroy explained afterwards. Ultimately he signed for an eventful one-under 71.
Still in shock, McIlroy clarified that the unplayable rule first changed in 2019 to allow sideways drops within one club length. “I wasn’t aware that that rule was changed again in 2023.” He reiterated that his understanding aligned with the ’19 framework.
While disappointed, McIlroy felt his game showed promise before spiraling. “I actually played very well,” he stated. “It was just one of those – I just let it get away from me those last few holes.” He remains confident that some tightened focus will turn things around entering round two.
First-round leader Thomas Detry of Belgium currently sits eight shots clear of McIlroy at nine-under 63. The four-time major winner has his work cut out climbing the leaderboard at Pebble Beach. But with his captivating talent, one lapse won’t halt Rory’s trademark charge for long.