The Loop

Ben An broke Rory McIlroy's long-drive heart by two yards

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July 26, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — It's pretty much always cool to do something Jack Nicklaus did—which is why the PGA of America resurrected its practice-round long-drive competition in 2014.

Nicklaus won it in 1963, with a 341-yard shot, and still carries the gold money clip he got for his effort at Dallas Athletic Club. The PGA even modeled the money clip the new winner gets after the one in Jack's pocket.

Rory McIlroy came into the media center after lunch leading with his own 345-yard bomb on Baltusrol Golf Club's 478-yard first hole, his ball trickling to rest just inside the rough boundary on the left side of the fairway. He said he was anxiously following where he stood.

"I hit one out there pretty good, but I'm not going to lie to you--I've been checking the board since to see if anyone's up close to me," McIlroy said. "I saw Gary Woodland out on the putting green just as he was going out, and I said, 'That's one of the guys I need to worry about.' "

Woodland put his characteristic charge into one, but missed the fairway.

Instead, it was Ben An who snuck one out two yards farther, at 347.

McIlroy heard the news as he was walking out of the interview room. He wasn't pleased.

With An's career earnings of $4.8 million compared to McIlroy's $50 million, it might be the only way the former U.S. Amateur champion will ever get into Rory's pocket.

Nicolas Colsaerts finished third at 341, follow by Brendan Steele (338) and Long Island club pro Matt Dobyns (337), who is based at Fresh Meadow Country Club in Lake Success, N.Y., 50 miles east of Baltusrol.