Masters Golf

Rory McIlroy hits out of the rough on the sixth hole during the first round of the Masters tournament on Thursday, April 8, 2021, in Augusta, Ga.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Rory McIlroy was already 2-over par as he went to the seventh hole and was probably looking for some way to vent his frustrations Thursday.

That probably didn’t include hitting his dad, Gerry, in the gallery with his second shot.

McIlroy drove in the trees left of the fairway and hit a punch shot across. Too far across. The ball hit his dad on his left leg as he walked up the hill toward the green.

“That was your dad you hit?” McIlroy’s caddie, Harry Diamond, asked.

“Yeah!” was Rory’s reply.

“In fairness, I was trying to turn it off,” McIlroy said, meaning he was trying to draw the ball left. “It was a perfect shot; it was dead straight.

“But I think he was OK. He didn’t limp away. He walked away pretty swiftly, so that was all right.”

That was more than McIlroy could say for his round. He bogeyed the seventh, his third of four bogeys in a five-hole stretch en route to a 4 over 76. It’s McIlroy’s worst opening round in 13 Masters starts, a big blow to his hopes of winning the green jacket to complete the career grand slam.

Eye to the skies

Many players have said the firm and dry conditions at Augusta National are probably just what Masters organizers want.

But those conditions are in jeopardy, with a chance of rain the last three days of the tournament.

There is a 40% chance of scattered showers Friday, a 60% chance of thunderstorms and gusty winds Saturday and a 40% chance of rain early Sunday. Temperatures will continue to be in the low 80s each day.

"I'd like a little sprinkle, but we don't want this place getting soft," said former University High golfer Patrick Reed, the 2018 Masters winner. "I'll be curious to see what happens the rest of the week."

Caddie with character

Until 1982, players in the Masters were required to use local caddies. The Augusta National caddie on Jack Nicklaus’ bag for his first five green jacket runs was a man named Willie Peterson.

“I loved Willie and I miss him,” Nicklaus said of Peterson, who died in 1999. “Willie never read a green for me. Never picked a club out of the bag, but Willie sure was enthusiastic.”

How enthusiastic? He related a story of Peterson’s celebration when Nicklaus holed his famous 40-foot birdie putt on 16 en route to winning the 1975 Masters.

“Willie started waving his towel. And when he started waving it he waves it right down as the ball went in the hole and he missed the ball by about that far,” Nicklaus said, holding two fingers a few inches apart.

‘Dash for the cash’

Gary Player told a story of his caddie, Eddie McCoy, who was on his bag in 1978 for the third of his Masters wins.

Player said when he arrived in Augusta that year, McCoy told him he needed a new roof on his house.

“'I don’t have the cash, man,’” Player said McCoy told him. “‘Let’s dash for the cash this weekend.’ I said, ‘We will get you a roof on your house.’”

Player shot a 30 on the back nine to tie the then-course record of 8-under 64 and win by a stroke.


Email Scott Rabalais at srabalais@theadvocate.com