For many, Rory McIlroy might have looked like a cross between E.T and a pup when, on one of his drives, he played a back swing that sounded like he was making the infamous chip shot at the Masters. But an unusual ability to shake loose balls from narrow fairways had been known to players for years. As the US Open champion Steve Stricker has said: “It’s like for every one shot there is a 300-yard shot on any golf course in the world.”
Since 1934, the US PGA website notes, only two times has anyone become a major champion with this unique ability, and only once in the past 30 years. Last year the Frenchman Jean Van de Velde carded one of the most unlikely wins at the Open after hitting a perfect shot in the fourth round on Carnoustie to a green at the other end of the fairway that had long since tumbled into obscurity.
No pressure then, as McIlroy produced yet another ball-smasher of a shot with a shot from 195 yards in his first round at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles on Thursday. It left everyone inside the ropes slightly shocked. But his immediate intention was no surprise. “If I could have hit that shot every single time,” McIlroy said, “I’d make that shot on Sunday.”