CHARLOTTE (North Carolina) • Rory McIlroy recovered from a poor start to keep his hopes alive of a third victory in golf's Wells Fargo Championship but, other than the rain and winds, he and Rickie Fowler had to put up with a bizarre incident at the sixth hole.
Just after McIlroy had teed off on Thursday, and just as Fowler was preparing to take his shot, a spectator threw a ball which appeared to have an earplug attached to it.
"So random," said the 2012 winner Fowler, who shot a one-under 71. "The guy said it was a gift. I don't know why you'd give (such) a gift."
The fan was escorted from the course by the police. "It was just one of those things," McIlroy said. "It was sort of strange."
The world No. 3 won his first US Tour title at Quail Hollow in 2010 and has recorded five top-10 finishes in six appearances at the event, including a course-record 61 in the third round last year on his way to a seven-shot win.
But the four-time Major winner, who is the only member of the world's top five yet to win this year, had to settle for an opening 73 to lie eight shots off the clubhouse lead held by the Americans Steve Wheatcroft and Andrew Loupe on 65, one ahead of India's Anirban Lahiri.
Starting on the back nine, McIlroy dropped shots at the 12th and 13th before a double bogey at the 18th, where he missed the green and three-putted from 13 feet following a clumsy chip.
A birdie from 20 feet on the second hole was followed by another dropped shot but, from the fifth, he picked up three shots in a row.
And although he narrowly missed from 15 feet on the ninth to get back to level par, he was at least not out of contention yet.
"I started off pretty well," the Northern Irishman, who has not played competitively since finishing 10th at the Masters, was quoted as saying by the Golf Channel.
"But there were just some shots where I was thinking so much about the swing rather than actually the shot I was trying to hit - and that was really the problem for the front nine."
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS
WELLS FARGO CHAMPIONSHIP
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