From human streakers to deer and alligators, course trespassers 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 of the BMW Championship hoping to see four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy find the holeshot, but first witnessed the bizarre sight of the Northern Irishman stubbornly trying to keep a bullet out of him.
McIlroy and playing partner Scott Stallings were nearing the end of their third round when a remote-controlled ball – appearing to be controlled by a spectator on the side of the green – rolled towards the flagstick.
After circling the hole several times, the ball looked set to finally drop into the cup when it was pushed back by a tense McIlroy, who turned to face the driver before blocking another run towards the hole from the remote ball.
There would be no third attempt as McIlroy scooped the ball up before tossing it into the water guarding the green, much to the delight of the watching crowd.
The cheers quickly turned to boos as the intruder – giving a thumbs-down gesture to nearby fans – was led away by stewards.
“It 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 of, but his ball disappeared.
Stallings, who lined up his approach shot from a nearby bunker during the incident, added he was ready to step in if McIlroy had not taken charge.
“I thought it was great,” said the American. “I was about to go do the same thing.”
Both players parried the hole afterwards, with Stalling’s under-66 round five kicking off a final day of title hunting that was woefully short. At under 13, the world No. 61 finished just one stroke behind compatriot Patrick Cantlay, who successfully defended his 2021 crown.
McIlory finished five strokes behind Cantlay to tie for eighth, earning another top 10 after finishing fifth and third respectively at the US and British Open in recent months.
It also marked the Northern Irishman’s leading role in another bizarre round of golf, following an extraordinary first round in July.
Playing the 150th edition of the event at St. Andrews, McIlroy saw one tee shot hit an ancient stone on the fairway before another inadvertently hit a spectator, breaking his hand.