BAY HILL, Fla. – Intermittent rain couldn’t keep Rory McIlroy fans from turning up even on a practice day at the 53rd Arnold Palmer Invitational on Tuesday.
While the stands were empty for most of the practice session as other golfers were teeing their shots in the cold, the scenario quickly changed when Mcllroy, the defending champion, arrived – and the rain departed.
Supporters gathered around in a rush to catch a glimpse of the Irish superstar. The drizzles stopped, almost as if even the rain gods wanted to see Mcllroy take a swing.
He stopped in between his shots to sign a few autographs.
The happiness after grabbing an autograph from Mcllroy was evident on some faces. Don Patterson, 60, from St. Louis has been a golf fan for 45 years; this was his 20th big tournament.
Although he said his greatest memory of a tournament was in 2018, when his grandson was asked to go under the rope and walk the fairway with Australian golfer Adam Scott.
Asked if he would give McIlroy’s autograph to his grandson, Patterson said, ”I’ll probably keep this for myself.” During the short interaction Patterson also wished Rory best of luck for his title defence.
Among other lucky fans was 8-year-old Knox Horrocks, from Jacksonville, who came to his second Arnold Palmer event with his dad and uncle. Rory is not Knox’s favourite but he was still elated to get an autograph. His favourite: Russell Knox, no relation.
Tiger Woods’ dropping out of the March 7-10 tournament was a big letdown for fans but interacting with McIlroy lifted their spirits.
He is currently ranked No. 6 in the world and with Woods dropping out due to neck strain, Rory would feel even more confident defending his title.
“I hope he’s OK,” McIlroy told the Golf Channel. “I saw him in Mexico [two weeks ago] getting treatment before and after he played and he did have some tape on sort of his upper back, so he was dealing with it back then as well.”