April 11, 2009
First, McIlroy appeared headed toward one of those gauzy storybook types of Masters days. And indeed he was, but it ended up being the kind of story that keeps kids up at night. At even par coming into the day, McIlroy chipped away at the leaderboard, finally eagling 13 to put himself in sixth place at -4.
And then everything went straight to hell. He bogeyed 14 but got it back with a birdie on 15. Okay, breathe, breathe, breathe ... gag. McIlroy double-bogeyed 16, hung on for a par at 17, and then ... 18.
McIlroy put his final approach shot into the greenside bunker, which isn't terrible. But the Irish wunderkind suddenly looked like a Des Moines sales rep, hacking away at a ball that wouldn't leave the trap. In frustration, McIlroy apparently kicked the sand. Can't say I blame him; I would have been helicoptering my clubs into the Augusta pines. Nonetheless, screwing with a hazard is a violation of rules when the ball's still in the trap, a violation that carries a two-stroke penalty.
McIlroy finished out the hole with a triple bogey -- for those of you scoring at home, that's +5 over the last three holes. And if the rules committee slapped him with a penalty, that would put him from +1 -- inside the cut -- to +3 and on a plane back to Ireland. Fortunately for McIlroy, the commitee, perhaps showing a little mercy at the meltdown, decided that McIlroy hadn't committed an infraction, or whatever, and let the poor guy come back on Saturday to atone for his crimes against 18.
Padraig Harrington wasn't so lucky. While setting up to putt at 15, a gust of wind skated the ball away a couple feet. In a rule that seems absurd, Harrington was nailed with a one-stroke penalty because he'd already addressed the ball. (That, in itself, was a bit of a dispute, as it's not certain whether Harrington actually did get himself in position to putt or not.) Still, Harrington fortunately holed out the putt, and his scorecard should technically read Harrington 72, God 1.
So while both McIlroy and Harrington will play through the weekend, it looks like the pipes are already calling for Augusta's Irish contingent. Shame.