Maybe Rory McIlroy is the "next Tiger Woods," after all.
When Graeme McDowell compared McIlroy to Woods while his countryman was lapping the field at last year’s U.S. Open, GMac was talking about the young lad’s potential to capture win after win in record-breaking fashion and become the golfer to break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships. Thursday, however, McIlroy emulated the former No. 1 in ways that golf fans would probably not like to see, as the 23-year-old pitched a mini-tantrum and threw his club to the ground during the opening round of the BMW PGA Championship at England’s Wentworth Club.
On a day when he carded five bogeys and a double for a 2-over 74 and a share of 100th place, the Northern Irishman tossed his club after mishitting a provisional shot on the par-5 12th, according to the Associated Press. The offending stroke followed a second shot that McIlroy knocked out of bounds.
"It's pretty disappointing," McIlroy, who started a European event for the first time in seven months, told the AP after his round. "I feel like I'm playing well, I just need to go out there and shoot a score."
While not booting his 9-iron, as Woods did during a particularly frustrating stretch at The Masters in April, McIlroy said he took out his anger on an innocent stick as well.
"You think about the par-5s and you should be taking advantage there," he said. "Standing on the first tee, three or four under is the worst you should be shooting.”
Meanwhile, McIlroy’s mate, McDowell, had his own problems Thursday. On his way to a decent opening round, the 2010 U.S. Open titleholder went after his ball in the bushes on the par-5 18th, only to see it move a scosh as he approached.
While the slight movement cost McDowell a stroke, he incurred yet another penalty shot when he failed to replace the offending ball. He ended up with a triple-bogey eight.
"The rules of golf are very precise and in-depth,” McDowell complained to the AP after limping in with a 74. “It's impossible to know every idiosyncrasy of them."
For sure, that’s the complaint of everyday duffers, but rules are rules (see: Morgan Pressel, Sybase Match Play Championship). GMac may have been confused by a rule change by the Royal & Ancient that eliminated the penalty for balls that move after address "when it is known or virtually certain that [a player] did not cause the ball to move."
Or maybe not. In any case, McDowell conceded that he should have asked for an official to help him interpret the situation.
"I probably should have called for a referee -- that would have saved me one shot, but what are you supposed to do -- the whole area was sort of bouncing," he told the BBC. "I was aware of it and asked for it to be looked at. The rules are there for everybody's protection."
As for McIlroy’s less-than-elegant display of temper, wonder if the current world No. 1 will hear it from the etiquette police the way Woods did for his drop-kicking incident?