JOHNS CREEK, Ga. - Less than 24 hours after Rory McIlroy slammed his club into a root on an ill-advised shot and nearly tore up his entire wrist, there's a new star at Atlanta Athletic Club: the root.
Located on the left side of the third hole's fairway, you don't have to look hard to find the growth that nearly derailed a major winner: just sight on the steady stream of onlookers who are at the ropes looking down at the ground. Walk up close and, yep, there it is: a plain ol' root, albeit one with a nice little chunk taken out of it.
Course marshal Jim Stevens (right) has assumed the job of curator at McIlroot, and it's a role he's clearly relishing. "Oh, yeah, you wouldn't believe how many people have come through here just to look at this damn root," he says, in a voice that masks pride with a little good ol' Southern curmudgeon.
Give him the chance, and he'll take you through the whole sequence of events, from the moment the ball rolled up to the moment McIlroy hit and realized what he'd done: "He jumped like someone had put an electric shock into his shoulder. You should have seen how big his eyes got."
Stevens, the man on the scene on Thursday, took issue with Golf Channel commentators' assertions that JP Fitzgerald, McIlroy's caddy, should have done more to encourage him to punch out onto the fairway rather than go for the glory. "First thing the caddy said, 'chip it out,'" Stevens said. "Last thing the caddy said before Rory swung, 'chip it out.' He wasn't listening to anybody." (McIlroy supported this after his second round, when he noted that Fitzgerald is "my caddy, not my father.")
You walk away from McIlroot, where several course marshals and attendants have set up a de facto camp, and it's not long before someone else comes up, remarking that the root is the AAC's version of Augusta's Eisenhower Tree, and Stevens gets going again: "He jumped like he'd just gotten an electric shock ... "
So, yes, McIlroot is now an official tourist attraction. We expect the placement of a plaque soon, and, this being Atlanta, corporate sponsorship of the root should follow soon afterward.
McIlroot, for its part, referred all requests for comment to its PR agency.