The intruder (R) strolled up to the group before nonchalantly reaching in between Jon Rahm (centre left) and Rory McIlroy (centre right) as they chatted
A spectator brazenly walked on to a teebox and took a club from Rory McIlroy’s bag in a bizarre and troubling start to the second round of the Scottish Open.
As McIlroy and Jon Rahm, the world No 1, looked on in befuddlement, the man took a few swings before officials eventually arrived to lead him away. Police later revealed a 35-year-old was taken to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and that the “investigations were ongoing”.
Inevitably, there were questions asked about the security at this $7 million (£6 million) event. This is the first time that fans have been allowed in to watch a British golf event since the pandemic took root 15 months ago. Only 4,000 have been permitted entry, which makes this incident yet more concerning.
The intruder was able to stroll up unchallenged to the marquee grouping – also featuring Justin Thomas, the world No 3 – before nonchalantly reaching in between Rahm and McIlroy as they chatted, first taking the head cover off a wood before settling upon an iron.
McIlroy usually has at least one security guard with him, but it was unclear where the detail was as the group began their rounds off the 10th tee at 8am. McIlroy, who went on to miss the cut after a 71 left him on one under, was not keen to talk, but claimed that “the incident was handled efficiently”.
View this post on Instagram
Rahm, who holds the halfway lead on 11 under alongside England’s Jack Senior and Belgium’s Thomas Detry, was more candid. “I don’t think any of us understood what was going on,” he said. “He came in so confident and we thought he was going to take a picture or something. We thought he was maybe part of the camera crew or a photographer.
“After a bit, when he walked back and they were taking him out, you could smell the reason why it happened. Me and Rory didn’t say anything. He was holding a six-iron and I didn’t want to get hurt.”
An onlooker told The Scotsman: “He was standing at the back of the tee and went over to Rory’s bag, took out the driver [sic] and had a couple of swings with it. When someone told him that he couldn’t do that, he replied by saying, ‘Why not?’ At that point, the security people assigned to following the group moved in and took him away.”
David Wilson, a member of nearby club Kilspindie who posted the footage on social media, added: “The players laughed it off, saying they knew he wasn’t a golfer when they saw his grip.”
The breach inevitably cast a shadow over a day when this links was once more benign. Rahm, playing in his first event since winning the US Open at Torrey Pines, gave his rivals for next week’s Open Championship an ominous message. Despite his 65, the 26-year-old was far from ecstatic.
“Those first 10 holes I played incredibly,” Rahm said. “I was seven under through 10 and the three pars I had were short putts that could have been made. They were clearly birdie chances. That’s not always going to happen. Swing-wise it’s good. If I just clean up some little mistakes, it could be better.”
It is a fine leaderboard. English duo Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick are with South African George Coetzee on 10 under and Thomas is eight under in a group also containing Ian Poulter.
McIlroy, however, will be absent this weekend after succumbing to his third missed cut in his past eight strokeplay events. It hardly bodes well for his hopes of ending a seven-year majorless run at Royal St George’s.