From human streakers to deer and alligators, course intruders have taken many forms in golf’s long history, but Saturday saw a 21st century twist on the trespassing trend – a remote-controlled ball.
Fans had flocked to the 15th green at the BMW Championship in the hopes of witnessing four-time major winner Rory McIlroy find the hole, yet first witnessed the bizarre sight of the Northern Irishman doggedly trying to keep a ball out of it.
McIlroy and playing partner Scott Stallings had been approaching the end of their third round when a remote-controlled ball – appearing to be controlled by a spectator at the side of the green – rolled towards the flag.
Having circled the hole numerous times, the ball looked set to finally drop into the cup when it was swatted away by an outstretched McIlroy, who turned to face the pilot before blocking another run at the hole from the remote-guided ball.
There would be no third attempt as McIlroy picked up the ball before hurling it into the water guarding the green, much to the delight of the onlooking crowd.
Cheers quickly turned to boos as the intruder – making a thumbs down gesture towards nearby fans – was led away by stewards.
“That wasn’t exactly something I expected to see on a Saturday afternoon,” Stallings said, according to USA Today’s Golfweek.
“He kept yelling at Rory, ‘This is my dream, this is my dream.’ I don’t know exactly what he was dreaming about, but his ball is gone.”
Stallings, who had been lining up his approach shot from a nearby bunker during the incident, added he had been ready to step in had McIlroy not taken matters into his own hands.
“I thought it was great,” the American said. “I was about to go and do the same thing.”
Both players subsequently parred the hole, with Stalling’s five-under 66 round teeing up a final day chase of the title that fell agonizingly short. At 13-under, the World No. 61 finished just one stroke short of compatriot Patrick Cantlay, who successfully defended his 2021 crown.
McIlory finished five shots behind Cantlay to tie for eighth, securing yet another top 10 finish after fifth and third place finishes at the US and British Opens respectively in recent months.
It also marked the Northern Irishman’s leading role in another bizarre round of golf, following an extraordinary first Open round in July.
Playing the 150th edition of the event at St. Andrews, McIlroy saw one tee drive strike an ancient stone on the fairway before another inadvertently struck a spectator, breaking their hand.