Let’s face it – despite coming into this Masters week as one of the odds-on favorites to take home a green jacket, things haven’t gone quite to plan for Rory McIlroy.
The Ulsterman was in contention after Thursday’s opening round, but a horrible day on Friday ended mercifully when he faced a four-foot putt for par on No. 18 just to make the cut on the line. He holed it, but in a tie for last among those who survived to play Saturday, Rory was forced into a unique situation.
The top 50 players, as well as anybody within ten strokes of the lead, make the cut at the Masters. However, as groups move from threesomes to pairs on the weekend, McIlroy was sent out technically alone in competition, although the rules dictated that he play with a “marker”, a non-competing player who is there to play, but in many cases simply keeps the tournament player’s score.
That honor fell to Jeff Knox, a member at Augusta National and the official marker, is no slouch himself. He’s an Augusta native, a two-time Georgia Mid-Amateur Champion, and he holds the course record from the member’s tees. To say he knows his way around the course would be an understatement.
Of course, nobody would have expected him to, you know, beat the former World No. 1 under tournament conditions.
Knox didn’t just keep pace and score, he played out every shot and made quite the impression on McIlroy with his play. As the two finished on the 18th green, Knox holed out for par and a two-under round of 70, besting McIlroy by a stroke.
“Jeff is a great player,” McIlroy said after the round. “He beat me by one. So I thought he was going to be nice and 3‑putt the last and we would have a halve, but he beat me by one. … He obviously knows this place so well and gets it round. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone putt the greens as well as he does around here.”
Credit to McIlroy for taking it all in stride. After what happened to him on Friday, really nothing would have been that bad today, and McIlroy seemed to truly enjoy playing with Knox. Still, how often do you see a guy just show up and beat the best in the world? It’s a fun story for Knox to tell, and could lead to some nice ribs on McIlroy from his fellow pros down the line.