Posted: 3:34 pm Saturday, April 12th, 2014

McIlroy’s new low: Beaten by marker 

By Jeff Schultz

Rory McIlroy walks marker Jeff Knox during his round Saturday. Knox beat him by a stroke. (AP photo)

Rory McIlroy walks marker Jeff Knox during his round Saturday. Knox beat him by a stroke. (AP photo)

AUGUSTA – Rory McIlroy’s recent trips to the Masters have resulted in him discovering uncharted territory to land a golf ball at Augusta National, from the quiet cabins off the 10th fairway, to a fence behind the fourth green, to the azaleas far up a hillside behind the 13th. He’s like Magellan on hallucinogens.

On Saturday, after barely qualifying for weekend play, McIlroy established another first: He turned club member and local amateur Jeff Knox into a folk hero.

“Go marker!” one fan yelled to Knox at the 15th green.

“Kick his ass!” another said at the 17th.

“This guy’s in the wrong profession,” somebody said at 18.

Actually, Knox’s family accrued its wealth in banking and now he runs a foundation. So chose well.

McIlroy is the one who too often looks at of place at Augusta National. After back-stepping over the cut line at 4-over-par – he was the last of 51 players to qualify for the weekend – McIlroy was outplayed by the marker Saturday.

Knox, who’s (unofficially) playing in his fourth Masters and is a former Georgia mid-amateur champion, shot a 2-under par Saturday. McIlroy was 1-under. At one point, Knox actually had a four-stroke lead but McIlroy birdied the last three holes.

“I thought he was going to be nice and three-putt the last hole, but he beat me by one,” McIlroy said, managing a joke.

If it was any consolation to McIlroy, his fiance, tennis player Carolina Wozniacki, followed him around the course and did not leave with Knox.

For the uninitiated: A marker is used when an odd number of players are in the field. A playing partner is needed to keep score and maintain the proper pace of play.

It just so happens that Knox, a 51-year-old Augusta National member, is better than most markers. He holds the club course record with a 61 (in 2002, from the member tees). He’s a two-time Georgia mid-amateur champion and finished in third place in last year’s Georgia Amateur championship.

Knox told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2012 that his goal is to play in the Masters as a competitor, which would necessitate him winning the U.S. Amateur or U.S. Mid-Amateur title. He has been a marker several times before.

“It’s the next-best thing to playing in the tournament,” he said two years ago. “That’s my ultimate goal. I’m running out of time to do that. This isn’t a bad second. It’s a lot of fun.”

Knox would not speak to the media after his unofficial round Saturday, likely at the club’s request. He has spoken previous years. Last year, when he was paired with fellow Georgia alum and defending Masters champion Bubba Watson, he called it “an incredible experience for me to be there, especially with a guy like Bubba who is really passionate about his championship here.”

McIlroy isn’t Knox’s first victim. He outshot Craig Stadler (twice) in 2003. He beat Sergio Garcia by one shot in 2006. (Garcia reportedly didn’t take that well. Big shock.) He also outdrove Miguel Angel Jimenez twice one year. He beat 2011 U.S. Amateur champion Kelly Kraft by two strokes. Last year, Knox was the spotter for defending Masters champion Bubba Watson on Saturday and former PGA champion Keegan Bradley on Sunday.

So he’s way past the point of feeling awed.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone putt the greens as well as he does,” said McIlroy, who was playing with a marker for the first time. “He was really impressive. I was thinking of getting him to read a few of my putts.”

Couldn’t hurt.

Some recent ramblings, on demand . . .
– MyAJC ($): Bubba Watson learned about celebrity life the hard way
– MyAJC ($): Short takes (round 2): McIlroy, youth, Crenshaw
– MyAJC ($): Old guys don’t rule but Couples does
– MyAJC ($): Short takes (round 1): Phil’s flop, Scott and Cink(ing)
– MyAJC ($): Mickelson in position to tie Woods
– MyAJC ($): Without Woods, Masters is on discount rack
– MyAJC ($): Braves did more than just survive first week
– MyAJC ($): For second-best, Braves look pretty good
– MyAJC ($): ‘Depleted’ Braves staff has been majors’ best so far
– Blog: Short takes on Braves’ win: Pitching, replay and Uptons
– MyAJC ($): Nationals assumed too much in 2013 — but not now
– Blog: As Freeman powers Braves, Upton still searching for…anything
– MyAJC ($): B.J. Upton is under fire — and he knows it
– Blog: Tiger Woods out and Masters will take a hit
– MyAJC ($): Teheran does his part but Braves lose anyway
– Blog: Short take on Braves’ loss to Milwaukee
– MyAJC ($): Strong opener by Teheran would ease some Braves’ concerns
– MyAJC ($): Injuries means Braves have little margin for error
– MyAJC ($): NCAA needs to take the hint, start paying players
– Blog: Mike Mills’ song pushes Dale Murphy for Hall of Fame
– MyAJC ($): Did Dimitroff lose benefit of doubt after bad season?
– Blog: Dimitroff on Falcons, failure, his draft board and Umenyiora
– MyAJC ($): SEC needs to go to nine-game schedule, eliminate cupcakes
– MyAJC ($): Richt has been tough, even if some haven’t noticed
12 comments
Getting_Older
Getting_Older

Rory's comments:

"I thought he was going to be nice and three-putt the last and we would have a half, but he beat me by one," McIlroy said. "He obviously knows this place so well and gets it around. I don't think I've ever seen anyone putt the greens as well as he does around here. He was really impressive. I was thinking of maybe getting him to read a few of my putts out there."


I hope he was joking about "be nice and three-putt the last and we would have a half".  It probably was, but that is what you lose in translation when all you have is the text and cannot hear how it was said.

badbrad23
badbrad23

Never thought I'd ever say this Jeff about one of your posts, but enjoyed reading this.  Nice work.

Quackmeyer
Quackmeyer

Great story, Jeff.  Enjoyed every word. Love these back stories that made Dan Jenkins, Bob Drum and Furman Bisher so famous.

Scott994890
Scott994890

Tell the Garcia story in full! They reportedly made a bet on the 1st tee, Knox kicked his behind, and Garcia wouldn't pay up and wouldn't shake his hand. Why isn't Jeff Knox on tour or leading our Walker Cup team? This guy is a major stud.

BRAVES2143
BRAVES2143

Nice story about Jeff Knox, too bad your cheesy headline had to take a stab at Rory McIlory.  Rory shots 1 under yesterday, only bettered by 9 other golfers, and you make him the butt of your headline.   

Esquire
Esquire

If it was any consolation to McIlroy, his fiance, tennis player Carolina Wozniacki, followed him around the course and did not leave with Knox."  


Carolina??  What an Ahole thing to say.  

Esquire
Esquire

Jeff Knox was under so much pressure..............

Esquire
Esquire

What?  A story in the AJC about the greatest golf tournament in the world.........holy cow!

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

Rory may have been outshot by a marker today, but he was 1 of only 12 players to break par - he'll be back next year.  Heck, the marker was 4 better than Bubba and he's leading the tournament.