Con­spir­acy the­ory?

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THE SECOND PAGE -

A golf fan is be­lieved to have un­wit­tingly pock­eted su­per­star Rory McIl­roy’s lost ball in the fi­nal round of Sun­day’s Bri­tish Open, which could have cost him up to $203,000 in prize money.

McIl­roy, 28, was pe­nal­ized for los­ing his ball on the 15th hole af­ter a wild shot, cost­ing him a slim chance of catch­ing Jor­dan Spi­eth and the lead­ers. But a man was filmed ap­par­ently pick­ing up a ball from shrubs.

McIl­roy went on to fin­ish in a tie for fourth, earn­ing $477,000 in prize money. With­out the twoshot penalty, he could have been third. He started the fi­nal round nine shots be­hind Spi­eth — and came within four of catch­ing him — be­fore the drama at Royal Birk­dale.

The Sun, a Bri­tish tabloid, posted a 90-sec­ond video that starts just af­ter McIl­roy had hooked his tee shot.

A fan who re­al­ized the golfer was strid­ing to­ward him be­gan film­ing on his cell­phone. His footage shows an­other spec­ta­tor — in shorts and hold­ing a red um­brella — lean­ing to­ward thick grass. He then straight­ens up hold­ing a ball and puts it in his pocket.

McIl­roy strides into view and the hunt for his miss­ing ball be­gins.

The man film­ing can be heard whis­per­ing to a pal: “That fella just found the golf ball!” He gig­gles as he adds: “He’s not told him! Ter­ri­ble!”

The man thought to have taken McIl­roy’s ball blended into the crowd and slipped away.

Even­tu­ally the player ad­mit­ted de­feat and de­clared the ball lost. He took a bo­gey 6 on the hole and fin­ished the tour­na­ment 5-un­der par.

“There was great ex­cite­ment be­cause Rory was get­ting into gear and a mag­i­cal come­back charge for ti­tle glory was on,” a fan who saw the in­ci­dent said. “The mys­tery man’s ac­tions have changed the course of sport­ing his­tory.”

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