Rory McIlroy's no good, very bad week at Augusta National continued on Saturday morning, when he finished a shot worse than his playing partner. That normally wouldn't be the worst thing, but his playing partner was a noncompeting marker, the stand-in amateur Augusta forces single tee times to play with on the weekend.
Jeff Knox has the greatest job in golf. Knox is an amateur, an Augusta local, and a member at ANGC. When the cut is made at the Masters each year, he gets the call on the weekend if there's an odd number of players and the first tee time off is a solo. Knox played last year with superstars Bubba Watson and Keegan Bradley on the weekend, and now he's got another one of the game's best, Rory.
The noncompeting marker is another Masters quirk, as the club does not give the player a choice whether he wants a playing parter or not. The purpose of the marker is to keep the pro's scorecard and also generally keep the pace and rhythm of a normal two-man round. But Rory had a good bit of separation from the group behind him, about four to five holes after playing the first nine in just 90 minutes.
And it wasn't going well for the one who's the pro, as Knox beat out McIlroy on the first nine and was in line to repeat it on second nine.
Marker Jeff Knox played the front nine in one-under 35, two shots better than Rory McIlroy.— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) April 12, 2014
How's Rory's Masters going? A colleague tells me,"He's getting outplayed by the marker right now."— Alan Shipnuck (@AlanShipnuck) April 12, 2014
Before you get too worked up, know that Knox isn't exactly some chop pulled off the street. He holds the course record from the member tees at a Augusta, a 61. He's won multiple amateur titles in Georgia, and he's beaten several pros he's played with at the Masters before.
Knox is the subject of media curiosity every year, and a Guardian article in 2013 relayed some of his best stories from his role as the noncompeting marker. The piece highlighted the time Knox played against Sergio Garcia, and beat the Spaniard, who refused to shake his hand after the ignominious defeat at the hands of the amateur (h/t Jay Busbee).
Unless he blows up coming into the clubhouse, Knox could add Rory to the list. At times, McIlroy has appeared on edge in the third round, an unexpected non-factor who looked defeated down in Amen Corner. He has caught some bad breaks and hit some bad shots, but losing to Knox might add to the level of frustration at a place that's confounded him since that unraveling on the Sunday lead in 2011.
Update: Rory closed strong, finishing with three straight birdies to get in the red with a 1-under round of 71. According to Golf Digest's Ashley Mayo, it wasn't good enough to beat Knox:
Rory McIlroy played with Augusta member Jeff Knox, whose unofficial score is 2-under 70. Rory shot a 71. #masters2014— Ashley Mayo (@AshleyKMayo) April 12, 2014
Rory was so impressed by marker Jeff Knox - especially w/ the flatstick - that he said he wanted to ask him to help read greens for him.— Jay Coffin (@JayCoffinGC) April 12, 2014
The No. 9 player in the world started the week as the co-favorite, but needed a five-foot putt in the gloaming late Friday night just to make the weekend so he could lose to the unknown amateur. Despite Rory's finish, the only thing we'll remember is Knox getting the better of him.