Rory McIlroy’s outrageous tee shot ignites red-hot back 9 at Bay Hill

Rory McIlroy needed a spark.

He struggled on the front nine, making bogeys at the 7th and 8th holes, and suddenly, he sat at 1-over for the tournament. His putter was not cooperating either, as he did not make a single birdie over his first nine holes.

As such, McIlroy decided to be aggressive at the par-4 10th, which measures 401 yards. He pulled out the big stick, aimed over the corner of the dogleg, and knocked it on the green.

In doing so, McIlroy became the first player to drive the 10th green at Bay Hill since 2003, the beginning of the ShotLink era.

“I thought if I got it in one of the two front traps, that would be a good leave to hit something up the green,” McIlroy said of his tee shot.

“I wasn’t trying to hit it on the green, but it was nice to walk up and see it on there.”

McIlroy then two-putted for birdie, thus getting back to even-par for the tournament.

Then, the Northern Irishman hooked his tee shot into the pond on the next hole. Despite that, he still got up and down from 152 yards, knocking his third shot to seven feet in the process.

“Those holes, in particular, 10 and 11, sort of got me going,” McIlroy said.

The four-time major winner then birdied the par-5 12th and the par-4 13th. McIlroy drained a 27-footer at 13 to get to 2-under overall.

But he was not finished.

Rory McIlroy, PGA Tour, Arnold Palmer Invitational

Rory McIlroy hits a tee shot during the third round of the 2024 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

McIlroy made three straight birdies to close out his round, ultimately moving up the leaderboard by more than 20 spots. His two birdies on 17 and 18 came on putts from 29 feet and 19 feet, respectively. Thus, he carded a 6-under 30 on the back nine, tying the record at Bay Hill.

He signed for a 4-under 68, one of the lowest rounds of the day—a day that has played extremely difficult due to the heat and high winds. He now sits at 5-under overall.

Anything can happen at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday, too, especially since McIlroy has now entered contention.

“You got to pick your spots and still be patient,” McIlroy explained.

“I think the wind will be out of a different direction again [Sunday], so the wind or the golf course will play quite differently than it did today. We’ll see what happens.”

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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