Posts Tagged ‘rory mcilroy’
Okay, golf fans, the Accenture Match Play tournament has finally moved from being one big snowball fight in the parking lot to an actual competitive golf tournament.
I had turned on the TV late yesterday afternoon to check in on the supposed first day’s play that I had recorded on the DVR, only to discover that play was slowed to a halt by a snowstorm…in Tucson. In the desert.
I’m not making this up.
For you golf novices, match play in golf is very different than the traditional stroke play you see on your typical weekend golf tournament.
In match play, think about how the 64 brackets in the NCAA basketball tournament break down, and you’ve got the gist of it.
For the Accenture, sixty four players are grouped into four super brackets, and in each, one player faces off another player in the first round.
Whoever wins the most holes out of the 18, wins that match and, like in college basketball, moves on to the next round.
It’s also an entirely different kind of golf strategy. When your opponent makes a mistake, you work to seize on that mistake by not screwing up yourself, so each match can be akin to watching a dance — the only question is, who will step on who’s golf shoes?
In the finishing of round one that just got underway mid-afternoon Tucson time, there have been a few surprises.
South African Charles Schwartzel, a favorite going in, lost 1 up to rookie Russell Henley.
Spaniard Sergio Garcia almost gave away a commanding lead to Thai golfer Thongchai Jaidee (who, by the way, saw his first snow ever yesterday…also in Tucson!), and they battled it out into extra holes until Garcia took the match 1 up.
Our favorite European Ryder Cup nemesis, evil-eyed Ian Poulter, stepped away from his Twitter account long enough to take out Stephen Gallacher 2-1.
But the matches much of the golf world are holding their breath for are those featuring Tiger Woods v. Charles Howell III, and world ranked number one, Rory McIlroy, matched against fellow Irishman Shane Lowry.
The big question on my mind: Has McIlroy adjusted yet to those new $90 million Nike golf clubs? Rumor was going into the tournament, he had already switched back to his faithful Scotty Cameron putter, but then I’d read Nike had added some weights to his custom “Method” putter so he’d switched back to all Nike, all the time.
Switching clubs is not always a seamless transition, as I recently discovered, and I don’t depend on my clubs to make a living. McIlroy’s first three holes today would suggest they’re good enough (he was 1 up after 3 last I checked).
Tiger…well, Tiger’s just been on, and he probably also just beat the leader of the free world by a good 20 strokes last weekend (President Obama), so his confidence is probably high.
Could it all come down to Woods v. McIlroy in the championship match on Sunday (or, Monday, assuming the snow delay pushes out the finish)?
Methinks the golfing gods won’t be THAT generous to we fans, but I’m certainly willing to send that energy into the universe to try and make it so. CBS will never have seen golf ratings so high so early in a golf season.
Spoiler Alert: If you don’t want to get an update on The Farmers Insurance golf tournament at storied Torrey Pines in San Diego, stop reading NOW.
As of Monday afternoon, it looks as though professional golfer Tiger Woods is going to begin his golfing year with a big bang, currently at 15 under and five strokes ahead of last year’s victor, Brandt Snedeker.
I happened to be at Torrey Pines exactly six years ago this week, on a business trip, when Tiger also won (at that time the tournament was sponsored by Buick), and that also happens to be the first (and only) time I’d ever seen Tiger play live.
This, of course, was well ahead of the 2008 U.S. Open, which Woods also won in a playoff against veteran player Rocco Mediate, and also a full year and a half ahead of Woods’s “personal” issues.
So what’s different this time around? In 2007, Snedeker was a tour freshman, and Woods pretty much owned professional golf.
In the past six years, however, a lot has changed, including the fabric of the tour. Irish phenom Rory McIlroy since appeared on the scene, and he’s now the one in the Nike spotlight, having just signed a very lucrative deal (and also dealing with the transition to playing with Nike equipment).
Woods, on the other hand, was off in the wilderness, and only last year, after much coaching and a full swing overhaul, did he return even close to looking like the Tiger of old.
What’s old is new again, because these past several days in San Diego, the old Tiger has become the new Tiger, or the new Tiger the old…or something along those lines.
He’s pretty much owned the leaderboard, and despite a fogged out Saturday third round, his patience has been a virtue — not to mention his short game, which has been virtuoso — and never mind, his long drives straight up the middle, and his (typical) laser-lined iron shots.
After his U.S. Open victory in 2008, Tiger revealed he would miss the remainder of that season due to knee surgery, and for those of us who watched the showdown with Mediate, it was pretty clear Woods was in a lot of pain.
This year, Woods seems healthier than ever, his game seems remastered (pardon the pun), and if he keeps it together the last three holes, he will have won once again on the course he played so much of growing up.
Then, more importantly, he strolls into the rest of 2013 — including the first major of the season, The Masters, in April — looking as though he could be a real contender, in the majors, the tournaments he enters, and of course, the now-cherished FedEx Cup.
Despite his ups and downs in recent years, Tiger still demands attention, thankfully more now on the course than off. You need only have watched the coverage these past few days of Woods to see the galleries looking bigger than ever, scaring the Tour freshmen but seeming to bolster Wood’s confidence in all his shotmaking.
Make no mistake, 2012 was a great year for golf, what with Bubba’s curved wedge shot to win out over Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff at Augusta, and McIlroy’s missing the cut at the Olympic Club, and probably most notably, the U.S.’ failure to win back the Ryder Cup.
But Tiger taking Torrey by four or five strokes out of the gate in 2013, with Rory gazing on from off the side of the green, along with a host of new names we’ve never heard looking for a piece of the PGA action.
Well, let’s just say 2013 might be an even bigger year than 2012 for professional golf, and a bigger one than that for Tiger Woods.
Well, it was a wild and wooly weekend at the PGA TOUR Championship at East Lake in Atlanta, Georgia, and also the culmination of the 2012 U.S. PGA golf season with the awarding of the FedExCup.
In the end, it was Brandt Snedeker’s opportunity to seize the moment, and seize it he did.
Starting with Jim Furyk’s 17th hole meltdown on Saturday with a drive into the water left, the field slowly but surely began to peel away like an onion, leaving Snedeker on the victor’s podium with his amazingly consistent putting stroke and nearly as consistent driving accuracy. (By way of proof, Snedeker made 61 out of 62 putts from inside ten feet!)
The long hitters ended up being eaten away by East Lake, with players like Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, and even to some degree Tiger Woods, unable to match the needed pinpoint accuracy to stay on East Lake’s tight fairways and greens.
Snedeker also demonstrated an emotional maturity beyond his years, playing the last round like it was just another day on the links, and his double-bogey at six that included a watery tee shot?…well, that was just a minor setback (As he would later learn, both Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy also found their way to agua on number six in the final round).
By the time he reached 17, Snedeker’s confidence seemed quite assured, and the chip-in from the off the green just solidified that confidence.
Even a missed tee shot into the back left grandstand on the final hole didn’t shake him up — he just laughed it off, chipped on to the green, and two putted for bogey to walk away with both the TOUR Championship and the FedExCup, and a payout of over $11 million.
Is Snedeker’s victory a prelude to the U.S.’ likely opportunity to reclaim the Ryder Cup from the Europeans next week in Medinah?
Not so fast. Rory McIlroy still continues to pace the golf world, and is backed by some other exemplary European players, including Justin Rose, who stayed close on Snedeker’s heels yesterday, and Sergio Garcia, a Ryder Cup veteran. Europe also has Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell, both of whom seem to wallow in Ryder Cup pressure, while the American side has a number of Ryder Cup newbies (including Snedeker).
I’m not about to try and call this one in advance. I’ll just say it’s generally expected to be very close, and I’ll be watching every minute before my pro golf withdrawal and depression sets in.
As for the entirety of the 2012 PGA season, it’s likely to prove to be one that golf fans won’t soon forget.
The first round of the TOUR Championship at East Lake was a doozy.
Tiger and Rory paired together…well, it’s something special to watch. Reminds me of those transcendent rounds with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus playing together.
Two of the best golfers in the world bringing out the best in one another, which mostly they did, and in the game of golf. Pure magic.
Tiger finished at four under, his putting improving but also hitting some gorgeous drives and approach shots.
Rory? Well, it’s his first time at East Lake, so now that he’s had a few runs around the course, watch out. He puts a few more closer to the pin and turns that putter on, and though he may not intimidate Tiger, he’ll certainly catch his attention.
Rory’s been the strong weekend finisher this year, and the real question about Tiger is can he take that momentum from Thursday into today and the weekend?
Phil Mickelson…well, I called it. Can he keep it on the fairway? Mostly not. His drives were all over the place. And STILL he was able to recuperate from hill and dale and still pull off a round of one under 69.
Just imagine what he could do hitting fairways once in a while!
Justin Rose was a surprise leader, but not that big a surprise. Scott Piercy, for me, was out of nowhere.
You’ve also got the likes of Steve Striker, Hunter Mahan, Adam Scott, Brant Snedeker and Zach Johnson also hovering there around two under, and there’s still a lot of golf to be played.
Today’s notable tee times: Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson, 12:45 EST. Tiger Woods and Justin Rose, 2:05 PM EST. Jim Furyk and Bubba Watson, 1:05 PM EST. And Ernie Els, Lee Westwood, 11:55 AM EST.
I haven’t written about golf in upwards of a week, so as we approach the start of the TOUR Championship (sponsored by my favorite soft drink of all time, Coca-Cola) at Atlanta East Lake, I thought I’d share my thoughts in advance of the first tee time.
The first thing I’ll say is Rory McIlroy. The guy’s just been a golf phenom this year, and yes, he’s had his ups and downs. But he’s had more ups than downs of late, taking the last two tournaments and breaking from the field for the PGA Championship at Kiawah.
Can he win three PGA Tour victories in a row? If all facets of his game are on when he tees it up tomorrow, absolutely. But if Uninvincible Rory doesn’t show up, it breaks the field wide open.
To wit, enter Tiger Woods. He comes into Eastlake ranked # 2 behind Rory, but if Tiger can turn his putter back on, and stay consistent with the rest of his game, there’s no reason he couldn’t walk away from this golf feast with another FedExCup.
Tiger and Rory play together in tomorrow’s round.
Beyond that, we can’t forget Phil Mickelson.
He, too, was struggling with his putting this year, but the claw grip seems to be mostly working for him on the comeback. If anything, Phil will have to have some discipline off the tees and not always be consumed with distance. East Lake is lined with tall pretty trees that you never want to see your golf ball get behind, so accuracy counts. That includes for you, too, Phil.
But I’m also keeping my eye on Brent Snedeker. Never mind, the guy hits the ball faster than any golfer on tour. “No Yips Snedeker,” he should be called.
I want to take his putting and bottle it up and sell it at public courses everywhere, and with East Lake’s smooth Bermuda greens, and his cavalier hybrid play, Snedeker can not only attack the pins — he can sink the putts where he gets close.
If Snedeker gets an early lead, he’s going to have to buckle down and not allow bad course management (or fear) get in his way.
And then there’s also the looming South African, Louis Oosthuizen. Louis still has one of the most beautiful swings in golf, and his calm demeanor will be an advantage with the stakes being so high.
He’s had three top fives in his last five starts, so it’s not unimaginable for his consistent play to sneak up the leaderboard to win the TOUR Championship.
Of course, that’s just five of an excellent field of 30 pro golfers from around the world who will be playing in the TOUR Championship at East Lake — playing to win, and rehearsing for what I consider to be the real main event, next week’s Ryder Cup!
Okay, golf fans, how about that BMW Championship and the continuing race to the PGA Tour’s new great prize, the FedEx Cup??
When the Tour first introduced the points-based playoffs in 2007, there was a lot of hemming and hawing. Who needs it, what about the majors, etc.
Well, here were are five short years later, and PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem and his team are laughing all the way to the 19th hole.
Just look at the top of the leaderboard over this past weekend’s BMW Championship, the final stop before the denouement that will occur next week at the Tour Championship: Rory McIlroy (the winner of the last two playoff events), Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Lee Westwood, Adam Scott…I could go on.
But the point is this: The best golfers in the world were playing Pete Dye’s Crooked Stick and chasing that Cup!
As for the play itself, it was of the highest caliber. Lee Westwood’s irons were magnificent, Rory McIlroy’s drives were massive, and yes, had Tiger been putting like the Tiger of old, he likely would have surpassed McIlroy and taken the BMW.
But the drama was real and the stakes were high, and if the performances were any indication of the coming Ryder Cup competition in Medinah, well, hold on to your driver, boys and girls, this is going to be one nerve-wracking Ryder Cup.
Going into Eastlake in Atlanta for the Tour Championship, the top 5 are as follows: Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson, and Brandt Snedeker.
If any one of those top five win in Atlanta, they win the FedExCup AND a $10 million bonus.
My money’s on Rory, but this is the FedExCup, and I wouldn’t rule out any of those top 5 walking away with the big check.
As for my own game, I’m about three weeks post-golf school, my newly-discovered under-rib muscle has mostly heeled, and I’m hitting the ball straighter and more accurately than ever.
Yesterday, I scored 82 on a local course here in Austin, and that was with a couple of nasty double bogeys I incurred with some sloppy sand and short chip shots. Last weekend, I shot a career-low round of 79 on a links course in some heavy wind, so my shot-making and course management skills are improving, as is my consistency.
I think the real test will come after another couple of months, and though I won’t be playing with the likes of Rory and Tiger anytime soon, I’m enjoying the game more than ever!
Boy, I need a vacation to recover from my vacation.
As I mentioned in the next to the last post, I tried to not spend too much time thinking about work while I was on vacation and trying to improve my golf game.
The best laid intentions and all that.
No, I did fine on not worrying too much about work (although I have a hard time not reading the news, being a news and blog junkie), but on the golf front, I guess there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing.”
After the three days of golf school, my dad and I had five days (and, therefore, rounds) of golf lined up, but what I didn’t count on was going on the injured reserve list.
Whenever you learn a whole new A) grip B) swing C) stance for your golf game, you also discover new muscles you didn’t know you had, and for me, I found one under my chest plate.
My dad and I played Tuesday through Saturday at various courses within an hour’s drive of Austin, and I even broke a new 9-hole record, shooting a 37 on the front nine of a local track here in Austin (back nine was a 44, for a total of 81).
So, golf school definitely had some positive impact, despite the injury, but by Saturday, I was barely able to turn back a swing for a drive, so I played a little more recreationally and a little less competitively.
But, my dad and I were able to catch most all of The Barclay’s on DVR replay, the first tournament in the “playoffs” for the 2012 PGA FedEX Cup Championship, and because it was played at Bethpage Black, the site of the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens, it was an extra special tournament to watch.
Not to forget the grueling 7,300+ yards, a course distance that gives us mere mortal golfers nightmares of 3-woods and hybrid clubs for days, never mind the short hitting pros.
No, it was the A.W. Tillinghast greens and beaches of sand that were this year’s Barclay’s stars, and ultimately it was Nick Watney who stole the show, playing consistently, and consistently in the fairways, and putting like a true genius.
Tiger Woods went low for a day or two before dropping back into the pack, and Sergio Garcia, despite not being seemingly able to find a steady caddy, hung near the top and/or the lead through the weekend, before giving Watney just enough distance for him to take the Barclays.
It was like watching the U.S. Open all over again. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than watching the pros struggling to play a really difficult course — it reminds me that they, too, are subject to the vagaries and frustrations of the game.
Next stop in the FedEx Cup is the DeutscheBank, being played this holiday weekend at TPC Boston in Norton, Mass.
All you Bostonian amigos of mine, feel free to send me a plane ticket and a course pass — I could stand a long weekend on another golf course — just so long as I don’t have to swing a club myself just yet!
Of course, all this drama is really just a big build-up for individual players to the ultimate 2012 golf denouement, which is the ultimate team golfing event, the Ryder Cup, being held September 25-30 at Medinah, just outside Chicago.
Team Europe’s captain, Jose Maria Olazabal, announced his squad earlier today, and quite frankly, I’m tempted to root for Europe.
The team includes Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia (that pick was a no brainer, the way Sergio’s been playing), Peter Hanson, Martin Kaymer, Paul Lawrie, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, and Nicolas Colsaerts.
It is a team, in short, that is a frickin’ golf powerhouse, with a solid balance between players who have been playing lights out golf of late, and veterans of the pressure cooker that is the Ryder Cup.
American captain David Love III will announce his captain’s picks next Tuesday.
I know I don’t get a vote, but for my money, you have to seriously consider Brant Snedeker, who went 7 under and took second at the Barclay’s with his brilliant putting, and Jim Furyk, who brings some much needed adult seasoning, despite his chokes at the U.S. Open and the WGA.
Otherwise, the core stable of Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, and Phil Mickelson is also a formidable force, although it’d be great if Mickelson could try and keep his drives in Medinah somewhere close to the fairways, and get his putter rejiggered to boot.
I’d say Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan, and/or Bill Haas will be the likely other two captain’s picks, but Love has another weekend to watch their play before making his final choice.
I hope and pray he picks well!
The PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, ended with a non-climactic finish yesterday afternoon.
I was playing some golf of my own up in north Texas with my father, so I got to watch the final round of the PGA once I returned home to Austin.
And when I watch the final round of a major, I can tell you I typically watch the whole round, start to finish, which is at least four hours.
I also had to place myself in a news blackout starting around 3 PM CST.
Driving south back to Austin, I realized the radio news might give the winner away, so I turned Puccini’s “Tosca” on my iPhone and listened to it while navigating the slow southbound traffic.
Once home I warmed up the DVR and settled in, and I quickly realized the last round was about to become another Rory McIlroy-fest. If you saw what he did in the U.S. Open at Congressional last summer, you realize all Rory needs is a little winding up in those high performance gears before he starts golfing like a phenom, and that’s what happened yesterday afternoon on Kiawah Island.
Yes, Carl Petterson, and Adam Scott, and even Tiger Woods, weren’t completely out of the mix after finishing the third round and moving on to the fourth and final round in the late morning.
But Rory was like a fine BMW sedan whose upper end just needs a little punch of the gas to speed up and settle in to the highway, leaving everyone else in its dust.
Also, it wasn’t just one part of his game that was making the difference, as is often the case with a championship caliber player.
Rory’s drives were threading the waves of the Ocean Course, his mid-irons were mostly finding their targets with great precision, and when they weren’t that close, his putter was picking up the slack.
He simply looked like Tiger Woods in his hey day — and as we saw at Congressional, when he gets wound up like that, he simply can’t be stopped and is playing a whole different level of golf than we mere mortals.
For all those who’ve been watching the Olympics in London these past two weeks, and marveling at the performances of all the great athletes…well, that’s kind of how many of we golf fans feel when we watch Rory (or any great player) turning it on in a round like that.
By the way, Rory broke yet another record, one that belonged to Jack Nicklaus: The largest margin of victory in a PGA Championship (his was seven, and McIlroy’s yesterday was 8, at 13 under).
In the PGATour.com’s wrap-up, Tiger Woods summed up McIlroy’s potential as a player like this: “When he gets going, it’s pretty impressive to watch.”
Uh, yeah, ya think? But I guess coming from the former world number one, those are still potent words.
So, congratulations, Rory. You were a tour de force in a major once again, and if you play anywhere that well in the Ryder Cup, the U.S. has that much less of a chance in taking back the Cup.
Regardless, Medinah’s going to be some seriously compelling, but nerve-wracking golf.
Golf fans everywhere, be forewarned: I went and bought myself one of those TaylorMade Rocketballz drivers over the weekend, and everything those pro golfers say in the TV ads are true, so long as you don’t swing TOO hard.
I was on the 18th tee of one of our local courses here in Austin, Riverside (where renowned golf teacher Harvey Penick once lived and taught), and hit the ball a good 280 yards straight down the middle, and this from the back tees. Much farther than I had ever hit the ball even from the middle tees, and so straight and long that it earned some serious “Ooohs” from the 20-something flatbellies I had been joined up with.
Never mind the rest of my game’s still a muddling mess…the point is, the Rocketballz driver lets you hit it like the pros, at least once in a while, and allows you to live your Walter Mitty-ish golf fantasies out on your local public course.
Of course, the pros this weekend we were focused on were Steve Stricker, among others, whom many of us were hoping would become only the fourth golfer in history to win the same tournament four years in a row.
But Zach Johnson, another midwestern favorite who hails from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, had other ideas, taking the trophy away from Troy Matteson, who led wire to wire but lost in a playoff on the second time the two played the 18th hole.
Two shots we won’t soon forget: Matteson’s 59′ foot putt on 17 to make eagle to tie Johnson and get in the playoff, and Johnson’s brilliant sand shot from the “Stricker” sandtrap on 18, a shot that landed about two feet from the hole and pretty much cinched Johnson’s victory.
And THIS time, I remembered to add extra time to the broadcast schedule on my DVR so I could actually watch the playoff. What a concept!
To me, there’s nothing like watching a golf playoff, especially when it’s mano a mano like that.
It’s nervewracking, it’s compelling, it’s, sometimes, yes, even spellbinding.
So, major kudos to Zach Johnson, as this makes for his second win this year (he also took the honors at the Ft. Worth-held Colonial back in May) and sends him roaring back up the FedEx points list.
Now, most all golf attention turns to Royal Lythan & St. Annes in Lancashire, UK, for the third PGA major of the year, the 2012 British Open.
As PGA Tour.Com pointed out this AM, first-time major winners have won nine straight at the Open Championship, so consider the field wide open.
Tiger Woods has certainly been on a streak, but there’s lots of hungry Irish lads like Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy, and Graeme McDowell who’d like a sip from that Claret Jug as well.
Harrington’s won the Open twice, Woods’ three times, Els’ once…McDowell and McIlroy, uh, never.
David Duval, who last won an Open at Royal Lytham in 2001, will also be making a return visit.
The action starts early in the A.M. EST Thursday, so get those VCRs and DVRs tuned and ready to go.
I have a distinct feeling this is going to be a seriously compelling, and competitive, week of golf.
If you watched any of the first day’s play of the 2012 U.S. Open Championship, you know that the Olympic Club Lake Course has not been kind to the world’s best golfers.
And that’s just the way I like it.
From Tiger Woods to world #1 Luke Donald to last year’s U.S. Open champion, Rory McIlroy, virtually every player is struggling with the razor trimmed greens and tight fairways at Olympic.
It’s always fun to watch the seasoned pros get humbled on a golf course: Landing the ball, holding the ball, putting the ball…stopping the ball.
In fact, Olympic played at over 700 over par yesterday, 400 something in just the first 6 holes, which all the pundits had warned about.
Currently, Michael Thompson leads the field at four under, and Tiger Wood is tied for second at one under. But there’s still plenty of golf to be played.
Who I’m keeping my eye on for day two: Tiger, no question. But also former U.S. Open champions GraemeMcDowell, currently at two under for the tournament after 9 holes today, and Jim Furyk, who’s even after 7.
David Toms is also tied at −1, and yesterday’s Jason Bohn is still settled in at even.
I’ll also be keeping an eye on Hunter Mahan (+1 for the tournament, −1 for the day), and Ian Poulter (+1).
Angel Cabrera is only +3, as is Ernie Els and Matt Kuchar, so there’s lots of opportunity left to climb their way back and make the weekend.
As for Tiger Woods’ play yesterday, you could tell he was back in the zone. He played the course, not the other players, and played some gorgeous iron approaches that demonstrated not only his technical prowess, but his savvy at how the greens were accepting (or not) approach shots.
If he plays like that again today, Woods could easily be leading into the weekend.
Regardless, it’s going to be fun to watch.
If you’re an avid fan, be sure to check out some of the useful features of the U.S. Open Web site for “golf’s toughest test.” The live video is carrying coverage today of the Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia, and Graeme McDowell threesome, and the “PlayerTracker” allows you to follow and review the play of individual players or groups by hole. I’m just learning my way around that particular course, but thus far, it’s extremely cool.
Finally, don’t forget to keep your eye on the amateur players. California’s 17-year-old Beau Hossler is even for the tournament, and Arizona’s Alberto Sanchez is only four over for the tournament.
It’s going to be one heck of a weekend of championship golf.