Rory McIlroy reflects on an eventful third round at the BMW PGA, in which two spectators needed medical treatment.
Rory McIlroy joked that he “felt like Phil Mickelson” after an eventful third-round 71 at the BMW PGA Championship in which he hit two spectators and an on-course marshal.
McIlroy led by three shots overnight after his imperious seven-under 65 early on Friday, but his prime form from tee to green suddenly deserted him before he battled back to regain a share of the lead with Francesco Molinari.
After a poor drive at the third resulted in his first bogey for 30 holes, McIlroy carved a long-iron into bushes at the sixth and his ambitious attempt to advance his ball with a hampered backswing resulted in him thinning his ball into the gallery and hitting a spectator on the hand.
McIlroy was apologising again on the 17th when, using the same club, he pulled his second to the par-five towards the gallery and hit a marshal in the midriff, his ball dropping to safety in the first cut and allowing him to get up and down for birdie.
Medical staff were also called for on the 18th fairway as McIlroy pulled a three-wood way left, and he avoided going out of bounds when his ball cannoned off another spectator, who needed treatment for a head wound.
McIlroy, who drew criticism for not shouting “fore” at the last, again managed to salvage a birdie which added up to a round of 71, a valiant fightback from being three over after six holes, but he remained upbeat about his chances of fixing his swing in time for Sunday’s final round.
“I felt like Phil Mickelson out there,” he said in reference to the left-hander, who is famed for spraying the ball to all parts of a golf course and still managing to break par. “I don’t know if it’s just the fact that the crowds are quite close to the fairways here, maybe that’s what I’ll put it down to. But I got very fortunate and I got good bounces off spectators and I made the most of it.
“I hit a girl on the sixth hole, I don’t think I quite broke her hand but I gave her a good mark, and then I split someone’s head open on 18. They saved me as well, because those balls were going deep into the trees or out-of-bounds if they had not hit someone.
“On six I was just trying to not hit the bush and it came straight out of the toe, but I pushed everyone back as far as I could. The one on 18 shook me a little bit but she reassured me she was okay, so that was okay I guess. It’s never nice.
“I didn’t think it was going to carry that far. It’s into the wind and it’s 275 to the bunker with a three-wood. I thought it was going to sort of pitch in the bunker, so I didn’t think anyone was in danger. Obviously that wasn’t the case.
“I just hope those people are okay. I went over to say sorry to them and there’s not much more I can do. Hopefully the medics did a good job and they are okay to come out and cheer us on tomorrow. I made the most of my luck today and rode my luck a little bit and I’m just going to have to play better tomorrow to have a chance.”
Francesco Molinari fired the only bogey-free round of the third day at the BMW PGA as he earned a share of the lead with Rory McIlroy
Molinari, meanwhile, gained control of the tournament as he fired the only bogey-free round of the day, a six-birdie 66 lifting him to 13 under which looked likely to earn him the outright 54-hole lead until McIlroy birdied 17 and 18.
“It was great, especially today,” said the Italian. “Obviously the conditions were very different, it was a tough challenge today with the breeze. It was gusting and it wasn’t easy so it was nice to keep a clean scorecard – I hit the ball great. I even missed a few short putts on the first nine or ten holes, but I’m in a great position, so I’m really pleased with today.
“I just love playing here. Clearly it suits my eye and I just enjoy the atmosphere. The crowds are always great. It is a challenging course but I think if you hit good shots, you can make a few birdies here and there. I love it, and hopefully it will be another good day tomorrow.”