NORTON — It’s not often a golfer shoots 66 and storms off the course in a huff, declining all media requests. Yet that’s how Rory McIlroy handled his infuriating conclusion to an otherwise spotless day.
Through 15 holes, the star from Northern Ireland was 6 under par, knocking on the door of the tournament lead. Things soured with his tee shot on the par-3 16th, which ricocheted off some rocks below the green and bounded into the water. McIlroy was miffed, mouthing “wow’’ in the direction of his caddie. “Yeah, [I] hit it good,’’ he remarked, placing the blame on his club selection.
His troubles continued to cascade on the 17th green. A sharply struck iron left McIlroy with 13 feet for birdie from behind the green. He took his time reading the putt and rolled the ball on a solid line, but it bobbled off the left edge. McIlroy merely let out a sigh.
No. 18 produced even more drama amid a roller-coaster round. Again, it was the putter that betrayed McIlroy, this time from more than 7 feet on another birdie attempt. When McIlroy’s ball refused to cooperate, he violently slapped his putter with the palm of his hand and threw it with disdain toward his bag.
Despite the bogey-par-par finish, McIlroy is perched at 9 under, in a four-way tie for eighth place.
Tiger Woods has talked to the media after every round he’s played in 2018.
The opening stretch of TPC Boston’s back nine is wreaking havoc on the sanity of the field. The golf course is widely considered one of the more forgiving tracks on the PGA Tour circuit, but it doesn’t come without its challenges.
Before heading to the driving range Wednesday, Jordan Spieth said golfers just have to “hold on in the middle’’ or risk suffering the consequences. The numbers back up his assertion. Through three rounds, the toughest holes are 12, 14, 11, and 13. Nos. 12 and 14 have produced 70 bogeys apiece, with the former also yielding eight double bogeys.
Tyrrell Hatton was one of eight to card the dreaded double square despite shooting 2 under and sitting one stroke back of leader Abraham Ancer (13 under). He went out of bounds to the right of the green with his second shot, hit an imprecise provisional, lagged to 6 feet, and sank the mid-range putt for a 6.
“Twelve was just one of those unfortunate things,’’ he said. “We’re all human, we hit bad shots and we get kind of stressed at times. Sadly, [the ball] sort of went straight right and landed on the cartpath. Then we weren’t able to find it. Just unfortunate.’’
Ancer didn’t fare much better at the 518-yard monstrosity. His tee shot landed in a bunker down the left side of the fairway, forcing him to lay up. Despite needing but a short iron into the green with his third, Ancer left the ball 39 feet from the hole and had to lag his way to a bogey.
“The first day I hit driver and it went through the fairway and I knew I was dead,’’ he said. “Today it was into the wind. I hit it a little thin and hit it on the lip. And I was dead.’’
Last year, champion Justin Thomas played his tee shot on No. 12 into the 13th fairway in all four rounds, avoiding a treacherous center-line bunker. Though the bunker was eliminated prior to this year’s tournament, perhaps some would still be better suited following Thomas’s 2017 lead.
Miller earns Ouimet
Johnny Miller, the Hall of Fame golfer and lead analyst for NBC Sports, will be honored with the 22nd Francis Ouimet Award at the Ouimet Scholarship Fund’s 68th Annual Banquet on April 11. The banquet will take place at the Sheraton Boston Hotel and is the largest annual golf dinner in America.
Named after the Brookline native and “father of amateur golf,’’ the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund was founded in 1949 and has awarded nearly $36 million in need-based college tuition to youngsters who spent at least two years as caddies or in pro shop and course superintendent operations in Massachusetts.
Miller won 25 PGA Tour events in his illustrious career, including the 1973 US Open and 1976 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1996.
Fine finish for Uihlein
Peter Uihlein of New Bedford shot 5-under 66 and closed with birdies on his final three holes. He sits at 7 under for the tournament, in a tie for 16th place . . . Defending champion Thomas shot a 1-under 70 and is 1 under for the tournament . . . Pat Perez withdrew from competition during the middle of his round when his wife went into labor. He entered Sunday 27th in the FedExCup standings and remains safe for next week’s BMW Championship in Pennsylvania.