Did this sprinkler cover just save Rory McIlroy 10 million dollars?

August 25, 2019

In many ways, Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka have been the two best players on the PGA Tour this season, so it was only fitting that they’d turn to the back nine at the Tour Championship tangling for the FedEx Cup playoffs title (and the $15 million that comes with it). But one especially fortunate break kept McIlroy in the driver’s seat at No. 8 at East Lake.

McIlroy had just seized the outright lead via a three-shot swing at No. 7, when he’d made birdie against Koepka’s double. Then he pumped driver down the left side of the fairway, leaving just a wedge into the green at the lengthy par-4.

But he pulled his wedge left, yelling directly after impact, begging for it to get down. That was an understandable reaction: a lake lurks left of the 8th green. It’s the same lake where Bill Haas pulled off likely the greatest shot in PGA Tour playoff history.

McIlroy’s ball landed on the very left edge of the green and careened off the edge, seemingly destined for the water. That’s when good fortune (or the Golf Gods, depending on your brand of faith) took over: McIlroy’s ball caught the lip of a sprinkler cover, slowing its speed and keeping it dry.

Of course, the shot McIlroy was left with was no cupcake. It’s the same area where Justin Rose had made a costly quadruple-bogey earlier in the day. But McIlroy took advantage of a good lie and some soft hands to flip his chip up to some five feet, and drained the putt. By the end of the day, that could make all the difference between winning the $15 million first prize and the $5 million consolation (yeah, we know— still a lot of money). All in all, that’s a pretty big break.