DAVE Renwick, the experienced Scottish caddie, left a note on Rory McIlroy’s locker before the two-times major winner headed out for yesterday’s final round of the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship.
But it wasn’t to apologise for alerting McIlroy to a rules infringement that led to the two-stroke penalty that cost the Northern Irishman the title after being pipped by a shot along with Open champion Phil Mickelson as Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal claimed the title in the UAE.
Renwick, who caddied for Jose Maria Olazabal, Vijay Singh and Steve Elkington when they all won majors, told McIlroy in the message that his actions had been in “good faith” as he simply couldn’t have lived with a guilty conscience.
“If I hadn’t said anything and Rory had won the tournament by a shot, that wouldn’t have been right and I couldn’t have lived with myself,” Renwick, who was caddying in the event for Argentine Ricardo Gonzalez told The Scotsman.
McIlroy breached Rule 25/1 in Saturday’s third round, when he failed to take full relief from a spectator walkway. He didn’t realise at the time that his left foot had been on the white line and, though it wasn’t clear on video, the player knew straight away that Renwick had been right when they went out to the spot along with European Tour chief referee John Paramor and saw where the divot was.
It led to a potential 68 being turned into a 70 and, though he staged a valiant attempt to repair the damage in the last round, McIlroy ended up rueing his carelessness as he finished a shot behind Larrazabal.
“I feel I did the right thing and if I could have stopped him before he hit the shot I would have. But I was fully 40 yards away at the time,” added Renwick, who waited until after the round to bring the matter to McIIroy’s attention rather than heading to the third tee as he felt that wasn’t the appropriate time for him to intervene.
“We’d just played our third shot and Rory was over the ball. I was looking over and thought, ‘I’m sure his foot is inside the white line’. I said to Ricardo as we walked to the next tee, ‘I’m sure he was standing on the walkway, not by much but enough’.
“I couldn’t have gone to sleep last night knowing that I hadn’t said anything. I put a letter, a nice short one, on his locker today saying that I’m sure he would appreciate what I did was in good faith.
“It was pleasing to hear that Rory had said there was no animosity as we’ve all got to adhere to the rules out here, after all.” It was the second time McIlroy had missed out on landing the Abu Dhabi honours due to a penalty, having also been pipped by Robert Rock in the event two years ago after sweeping sand from the fringe of a green. “I can’t describe how I feel,” said the 24-year-old of his latest desert disappointment.
“I feel like I’m standing here and I should be 15-under-par for the tournament and win by one. But that’s the way it goes. I played the least shots of anyone this week so I can count it as a moral victory more than anything else.”
McIlroy, who was watched by fiancee Caroline Wozniacki in the final round after her exit from the Australian Open on Saturday, is confident tangible victories will be forthcoming.
“It’s frustrating as I’ve played well the whole week,” he added. “It’s a very positive start to the season so I’m not going to let one little negative ruin that. I came in here telling everyone that I’m really happy with my game and done some good work and felt like it was coming together for me at the end of last year.
“I’ve continued that on and am really excited for the rest of the season. I’ve got a week off now to prepare for Dubai and give it another run there and see if I can get the win there.
“I feel good about my game and feel like I’m back to the place that I want to be. I’m driving the ball well, hitting the ball solid and giving myself plenty of chances for birdies. And if I can keep doing that, the wins will come.”