Credits: Fox Sports

‘Wasn’t aware’: McIlroy burned over illegal blunder as Aussie lurking in $30m battle

Rory McIlroy’s return to the Pebble Beach Pro-Am started in disastrous fashion on Friday (AEDT) after being penalised for a drop blunder that led to a triple bogey.

McIlroy carded a one-under 71 that leaves him eight shots off round one leader Thomas Detry at the revamped, $20 million (AUD$30m) event on the US’ Monterey Peninsula.

The Northern Irishman once held the solo lead during the day but at the par-five seventh, he was assessed a two-stroke penalty for an improper drop.

McIlroy found the bushes off the tee and had to take a drop for an unplayable lie.

In doing so, he dropped his ball back and to the right of his original line, but the rules state players must now only drop on the original line.

PGA Tour rules official Mark Dusbabek told the Golf Channel that McIlroy “totally owned the mistake”.

McIlroy said he was caught unaware.

“Unbeknownst to me the rule changed in January 2023 where you used to be able to come back on line, take a club length either side. That was changed in 2019 to be able to do that,” he said.

“I wasn’t aware that that rule was changed again in 2023, so I took a drop thinking of the 2019 rules when everything was sort of changed not knowing that the rule was changed again in 2023, so got a two-stroke penalty there.”

Meanwhile, Belgium’s Detry pitched in from the greenside rough on the last hole to grab a one-stroke lead after Thursday’s opening round of the PGA Tour Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

The lead Australian is Jason Day who posted a three-under round, followed by Cam Davis (two-under) and Adam Scott (even).

Detry, chasing his first PGA Tour triumph, birdied the first three and final three holes at Spyglass Hill to fire a nine-under par 63 — one off the tournament record — and seize a one-stroke edge over American Patrick Cantlay.

“It was a great round of golf,” Detry said. “I was driving it great out there. I didn’t really have any misses. I drove it far as well.”

The first two rounds of the PGA “signature” event, which features no cut and an 80-golfer field, are played over the Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill courses.

After completing a sweep of par-5 birdies at 14, the 31-year-old Belgian birdied 16 and 17 to match Cantlay for the lead, then left his approach shot of a raised green at 18, only to punch out his third and have it roll into the hole.

“Just perfect,” Detry said. “It was an uphill lie, I felt pretty comfortable I’d put it within three feet. And it rolled nicely, just trickled in the hole. It was lovely to watch.”

France’s Matthieu Pavon, coming off a victory last week at Torrey Pines, was third on 65 followed by Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo and South Korea’s Kim Si-woo on 66 and Americans Rickie Fowler and Collin Morikawa sharing sixth on 67.

Among the leaders, only Pavon, Kim and Morikawa played at Pebble Beach.

Cantlay, the 2021 PGA Player of the Year and FedEx Cup playoff champion, birdied the 13th hole, then reeled off four birdies in a row starting at the 17th, then birdied three of the final five holes.

“My short game was really sharp and made a bunch of those midrange putts to keep the momentum going,” he said.

Cantlay seeks his ninth career PGA Tour title and first since the 2022 BMW Championship.

Defending champion Justin Rose of England was in a pack on 68 that also included Sweden’s Ludvig Aberg plus Americans Sam Burns, Eric Cole, Justin Thomas and Denny McCarthy. Only Cole and McCarthy played at Pebble Beach.

World number one Scottie Scheffler, who played Spyglass, was in a huge pack on 69.