In 1955, Arnold Palmer won his first PGA Tour event at the Canadian Open, losing his putter in the aftermath of the event. Fast-forward 64 years and Rory McIlroy nearly did the same thing after shooting a Sunday 61 to win the national open by seven shots.
On Wednesday at Pebble Beach, site of this week’s U.S. Open, McIlroy relayed the story of how he nearly traded away the putter that gained nearly six strokes on the field average for an autographed Kyle Lowry Toronto Raptors jersey.
After holing out for bogey on the 18th hole at Hamilton Golf Club, McIlroy acknowledged the crowd, clapping his hands in their direction with his TaylorMade Spider X Copper still in his left hand. Coming off the green, Golf Canada CEO Laurence Applebaum handed McIlroy the NBA jersey and McIlroy handed Applebaum his putter.
@McIlroyRory gave his putter to a tournament official as he came off the green on Sunday after winning the @RBCCanadianOpen, so he could wave a @Raptors jersey to the crowd. Almost didn’t get it back. Reminded that @ArnoldPalmer lost his putter after first @PGATour win in 1955.
— Dave Shedloski (@DaveShedloski) June 12, 2019
Asked if there was any truth to the rumors that he gave away the winning putter after his round, McIlroy clarified.
“I traded (Applebaum),” McIlroy said at Pebble. “He gave me a Raptors jersey, and I gave him my putter and thought he was going to give it to Harry up at the scoring area or whatever.
“And I saw Harry. He goes, ‘Where’s your putter?’ And I said, ‘I better go find it.’
“I definitely didn’t give it away. I know I’ve done some stupid things in the past, but that would have been right up there.”
It would have been right up there, especially considering McIlroy was sixth in the field in strokes gained: putting, first in birdies and third in putts per green in regulation, a tour de force on the greens heading into the final two major championships of the season.
McIlroy safely recovered his putter and had it en route to California by Sunday night.
“I said to Harry, ‘Could you go and find Laurence? He’s got my putter. And put it back in the bag and make sure the bag gets on the plane and goes to California.'” McIlroy clarified. “That was really it. The guy I gave it to was running the golf tournament. He knows it’s not for him.”
McIlroy hopes to bring that momentum to Pebble Beach this week where he’ll kick off his latest major championship chase at 10:51 a.m. ET on Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Marc Leishman on the 10th tee.