Tag:cadillac championship
Posted on: March 8, 2012 6:19 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2012 6:56 pm

Diagnosis: McIlroy has Honda hangover

By Steve Elling

DORAL, Fla. -- Tiger and Rory, Rory and Tiger.

For obvious reasons, after last weekend's scintillating Sunday at the Honda Classic, those names were thrown around in close proximity abut a bazillion times this week heading into the Cadillac Championship.

"After what happened last Sunday, Tiger shoots 62, I end up winning to go to world No. 1, obviously people are going to talk," Rory McIlroy said Thursday. "Everyone has to remember, there's 80 other players in this field or whatever it is, and it's not just about a couple of guys."

Well, call it a competitive hangover, but the two primary combatants in last weekend's shootout had something in common at Doral Golf Resort & Spa as well -- neither broke par.

While Woods was shooting 72, McIlroy never got anything resembling momentum going while playing alongside the last two players to have been ranked No. 1 before him, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood. He finished with a 1-over 73.

"To be honest I felt a little flat out there," McIlroy said. "I don't know, I shouldn't, it's a World Golf Championship, but just felt a little flat out there. But, look, I'll go out there tomorrow and try my best, try and get it into red figures and see what I can do."

McIlroy managed birdies on three of the Blue Monster's four par-5 holes, but nothing else. He has finished T5 or better in 10 of his last 11 global starts. It represented his first score above par since a 2-over 73 at Kolon Korean Open on Oct. 8.

He played in the finals of the Accenture Match Play Championship outside Tucson, Ariz., where he lost to Hunter Mahan, before wining last week in Palm Beach Gardens. Even at 22, he might be getting a little frayed.

"I mean, physically, I'm fine," he said. "But mentally, I don't know, it's tough. Arizona and you've got a chance to go to world No. 1; and then Honda, you've got a chance to, then -- all of a sudden you're there, and you're like, well, what do you do?

"I just need to go out and set myself a target tomorrow and try and post a number."

Posted on: March 8, 2012 10:40 am
Edited on: March 8, 2012 12:04 pm

Trump: Doral will sparkle like never before

By Steve Elling

DORAL, Fla. -- A consummate showman, billionaire real-estate mogul Donald Trump has a lot of P.T. Barnum in him, and he certainly knows how to feed the media beast.

But when the guy talks about golf, you know it's not just blather and bluster intended purely for hype. The guy plays the game, is a single-digit handicapper, pays attention to the professional tours, and reads stories about the state of the sport.

As Trump was introduced on Thursday as the new owner of the Doral Golf Resort & Spa, which will undergo a $200 million makeover over the next three years, he promised he'd be a responsible steward and the end result would rock.

Doral, a landmark, has hosted the PGA Tour for 50 years, including this week's Cadillac Championship, which features the best field so far this season.

"We think that Doral has just tremendous opportunity, it's a tremendous location, 800 acres right smack in the middle of Miami, and we look to make this one of the great places anywhere in the world for golf," said Trump. "It needs a lot of work. It's a little bit tired and that's okay, and we are going to do something special."

Trump basically stole the place at fire-sale prices, paying $150 million, or roughly $187,000 per acre. The Blue Monster will be completely made over by Gil Hanse, who on Tuesday was named as the architect of the 2016 Olympics course in Brazil.

"That price allows me to pour some money into this thing," he said.

The Blue Monster will be shut down immediately after the 2013 tour event, Trump predicted, and be closed for six months during the redesign. Marriott is exiting as the hotel operator on June 1 when the property changes hands, and Trump said the clubhouse and hotel would remain open the entire three-year project while undergoing rehab in stages.

The driving range will effectively double in size and Trump indicated he is toying with the idea of morphing the Red and Gold course into the re-do, and possibly making one big-league-sized course by combining the acreage of the two.

Trump said he hasn’t decided what the venue will be named, excepting one part of the equation.

"I’ll always be keeping the name Doral in some form," he said.

Trump shot the breeze after the formal press conference about Rory McIlroy's win last week at Honda, the state of Tiger Woods' game and Phil Mickelson's re-emergence. He definitely keeps his finger on the pulse of the pro game and wants the sport to fit in seamlessly with the new purchase.

"We are going to do this really right," he said. "I enjoy it, and I view it as a business, but it's not my main business. But more importantly, I will spend much more money on fixing Doral than somebody else, because somebody else is looking on return on investment; I'm not. I'm looking to make an amazing place, and the return will come. I think it's a good thing for golf."

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Posted on: March 7, 2012 11:54 am
Edited on: March 7, 2012 5:51 pm

Casey shoulders slow start in Ryder year

Paul Casey dislocated his shoulder on Christmas Eve which delayed the start of his 2012 season.

By Steve Elling

DORAL, Fla. -- Paul Casey knew the photo would induce oohs and ahs.

On the sideline since Christmas Eve with a dislocated shoulder, the first photograph the former world No. 3 revealed on his cellphone showed a large, red blob in the middle of the picture, prompting at least one cringe among the scribes within viewing distance.

Then again, actual injury X-rays he produced a moment later were even harder to eyeball.

Back from a lengthy layoff after sustaining a shoulder injury while snowboarding in Vail on Dec. 24, Casey is making his first start of the year this week at the Cadillac Championship at Doral Golf Resort & Spa.

Unlike the first photo he produced on his phone -- a funny photo of himself dressed in a large, red Teletubby costume -- the reality of his situation is pretty black-and-white, just like the X-rays he produced with a few more flicks of the thumb. He's missed about 20 percent of his traditional season, was unable to defend a title he won on the European Tour, and has played one full 18-hole round since the injury.

"I think my expectations are fairly low," Casey said, laughing.

Finally close to full strength, at around 90 percent in the affected right shoulder, he's got to catch up with the rest of his ever-evolving peers. For the first time, during the layoff, he's been watching golf on TV -- and it's been some of the most exciting stuff on the PGA Tour in years.

"It was inspiring to watch," said Casey, 34. "It lit something, to get back to where I was before or even better."

It's amazing how much can change in the blink of an eye. When Casey, wearing wrist protection and a helmet, slipped on some ice while taking a snowboarding lesson, Luke Donald was entrenched as No. 1. He's since been supplanted by Rory McIlroy, while Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods seems to be rounding back into top form, too.

"I've done it long enough to know that there's always new, fresh faces, and it's moving," Casey said. "You're right, it's moving very, very quickly. But ultimately it's myself against the golf course."

If not his ... doctor? While explaining his shoulder injury, Casey actually said, "I'm not an expert at injuries," with a straight face. In actuality, he's had lingering problems over the past three years with an intercostal injury to his ribcage and painful turf toe on his right foot. All three maladies have forced him to miss multiple starts in the prime of his career.

"I'm clearly the freshest guy out here," he cracked.

Casey hasn’t suffered much in the grand scheme, dropping to 26th in the world ranking, but there's another ledger out there where he's really behind the pack -- the race for the European Ryder Cup team later this year in Chicago. It's not much of stretch to characterize his points total as, "nothing," as Casey put it.

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It's not quite that dire. The European team is composed from two points lists, and Casey is ranked 19th and 41st, with plenty of time to move up if he can play his projected 25-tournament schedule. For starters, he's playing three of the next four weeks, including the Masters. He's also playing at Houston, where he picked up a victory two years ago.

He didn’t qualify for the team two years ago in Wales and was passed over as a captain's pick.

"I don't think it adds any urgency or any pressure," Casey said. "I would love to make that team. I want to make that team. I think I will make that team. I've just got to play the golf I know I'm capable of and start winning tournaments and that will take care of itself."

On the plus side, he hasn’t missed any majors, so there's plenty of points and cash up for grabs. Casey surely sounds like a gung-ho, motivated man, that's for sure. Now, if he can just chip away the rust.

"I've got an awful lot of work to do, but if the body -- if I just stay off the snowboard -- then there's no reason why I can't get that work done and get the golf game back to where I was in 2006 or better," he said.

As for the X-rays, the two shots are of Casey's shoulder before and after his right arm was popped back into place. When it was dislocated, it was actually handing several inches lower than his left arm.

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Posted on: March 6, 2012 6:51 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 11:35 am

Turns out, McIlroy's wired for prime time

Rory McIlroy tees off during his practice round on Tuesday in Miami, Fla. (Getty)

By Steve Elling

DORAL, Fla. -- Lee Westwood ran across Luke Donald on the practice green on Tuesday, and given what they've recently had in common, the pair began a comical exchange about the state of affairs at the top of the game.

Westwood, never one to miss a chance at a good joke, turned to Donald, a fellow Englishman and said. "Good morning, No. 2."

Donald, unseated from the top spot in the world rankings on Sunday by Rory McIlroy, after Donald had had displaced Westwood from the same perch 40 weeks earlier, looked at Westwood and nodded.

"Yeah, it's sort of a bit of a relief," Donald told Westy. "There's only one way to go when you're No. 1. At least there's more than one way to go at No. 2."

At which point, Westwood's quick-quipping caddie, Billy Foster, interjected, "Yeah, No. 5."

Cool as McIlroy is playing it at the moment, it could be a long time before the 22-year-old gets displaced, regardless of the fact that Donald and Westwood can reclaim the top spot with a victory this week at the Cadillac Championship at Doral Golf Resort & Spa.

Don’t much like their chances, frankly.

Fresh off a two-day trip to the Big Apple to watch his girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, play an exhibition at Madison Square Garden, McIlroy wheeled into Doral late Tuesday afternoon and proved fairly conclusively that he is equipped with all the tools to be the No. 1 -- including the precious gift of poise.

Even after a whirlwind 48-hour span since he became the second-youngest player to reach the top of the world ranking, McIlroy remains as collected as when Tiger Woods threw a career-best closing 62 at him Sunday at the Honda Classic.

He arrived at Doral utterly unruffled, nonplussed and rifling off all the proper missives needed. After years of enduring the rather grumpy sort who occupied the same throne for most of the past decade, in his first public appearance since climbing to No. 1, McIlroy was an impressive study in confidence, self-deprecation, charm and insightful analysis.

That's the public-relations Grand Slam, right there. We're all getting to know the Ulsterman, bit by bit, and the puzzle pieces are impressive. The Northern Irishman has always been open and honest, and he didn’t waste a minute reaffirming that, to the delight of anybody who will read the comments about his career arc, Woods, or the perceived mantel of being a marked man.

For instance, McIlroy didn’t at all mind admitting that having Woods throw everything he had at him at the Honda made it all the better. Well, sort of.

"To be honest, I was probably thinking to myself, 'Could it not have been anyone else?'" he said, drawing huge laughs.

He not only survived, but thrived. If it was the passing of the generational torch, Woods tried to burn down Rory's house first.

"I can sit here and lie and say that it didn't feel better to have Tiger post a score and to be able to play solid," McIlroy said of this two-stroke win. "It maybe made it feel a little sweeter than if it had of been someone else."

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Whoever wrote, "heavy lies the crown," missed the boat with this guy. McIlroy shrugged off the presumed pressure that being the top man on the totem pole carries and said it's all a matter of individual taste and style.

"It depends what type of mind you have and if you thrive in the spotlight, if you welcome it," he said. "I feel like I do thrive in the spotlight, and I like the attention. Not that I'm an attention-seeker, but you're doing something right when you're in the spotlight." 

A modern kid in a highly electronic world, McIlroy is clearly wired the right way. Monday night, Wozniacki waved him onto the court at MSG and he traded a few lobbed volleys with her equally famous exhibition opponent that night, former Wimbledon winner Maria Sharapova. A shrinking violet, he isn’t and McIlroy "won" the point, to the delight of the crowd.

Think about it: Everybody's different, but can you envision Woods ever putting himself in a similarly spontaneous situation before thousands of fans and a live TV audience, where he could have looked like a complete clown? Of the foursome that has occupied the No. 1 perch since Woods cavated the throne, McIlroy not only seems best-suited for the long haul, both because of his skillset and age, but the demands of celebrity,

"I'd love to keep myself here for a while," he said. "I know that it's inevitable that I'll lose [the ranking] at some point, that's for sure. I just hope that it's a little further away.

"I don't feel like I'm under any pressure to keep the No. 1, because that's not what I play golf for. It's about winning tournaments, and if I win tournaments, the ranking will take care of itself."

The shock and awe of the achievement are not likely to rattle him, given the company he keeps. He received congratulatory messages from the manager of Manchester United, Alex Ferguson, and the team's star player, Wayne Rooney. Greg Norman checked in, too, just like dozens of others.

They all have hailed the new boy king. Unlike the reign of another No. 1, who shall remain both obvious and nameless, we are not expecting an era of tyranny and oppression from McIlroy, who is anything but suspicious, paranoid or defensive. Indeed, his manner is as refreshing as the Atlantic breezes that buffet the Doral facility.

As his father, Gerry, said last year when McIlroy elected to rejoin the PGA Tour for 2012 against the counsel of his management, "He's his own man."

That's becoming evermore evident, which is remarkable given his age and fast-track climb to top billing. He isn't surrounded by an army of handlers. His swing coach is in Ireland. His caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald, eschews the limelight. Nothing seems out of proportion. It's the way McIlroy wants it.

He received mountains of unsolicited feedback after blowing the 54-hole lead at the Masters last spring at age 21, and listened to precious little of it, really.

"I mean, you take it on board; the stuff that you might not think is relevant, you just sort of let it go," he said. "Even if you pick up one or two things that some people might say, you hold on to that and maybe try to put it in practice. 

"Most of the time, I try to figure things out on my own. I think that's the best way to do it."

Judging of his annihilation of the U.S. Open record book two months later, the evidence suggests he's right. The only player to reach world No. 1 quicker was Woods, who climbed the ladder at age 21. Though the comparisons seem premature, if not unfair, plenty of newshole has already been expended comparing the early trajectory of McIlroy to that of the 14-time major winner.

McIlroy handled that ticking time bomb like an adroit professional, too.

"I'm going to let other people make the comparisons," he said. "I've never said that I want to be the next anyone. I just want to be the first Rory McIlroy and however good that turns out to be, then I'll try my best to win tournaments and to win majors and to be best player in the world.

"But it's never like I set out to win 18 majors like Tiger has. I've always just wanted to win golf tournaments, ultimately to win majors, and to be No. 1 in the world. I've been lucky enough to win a major and get to the No. 1 position, but there's still a long road ahead and I feel like I can accomplish a lot more."

You'd have to be catatonic to bet against it. As none other than Jack Nicklaus pointed out, with a major already to his credit, McIlroy is a step ahead of most players. Moreover, McIlroy has already seriously contended at all four majors over his brief pro career.
"I've never let anyone tell me that I was too young to do this or too young to do that," he said. "I felt at some times last year, a lot of things happened to me so quickly in such a short space of time, and it didn't matter if I was 22 or 32.

"I feel like I've handled everything pretty well. I've definitely matured a lot and I've learned a lot in the last couple of years. So everything that's happened to me has been hugely positive and you know, it's nice to be sitting here at 22 and have the No. 1 ranking and to have won a major."

Introspective, easygoing and humble? Hold on, because this could be quite a ride.

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Posted on: March 9, 2011 2:27 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2011 5:12 pm

Short-game tweaks fuel longer Tiger drought, too

DORAL, Fla. -- Of all the unsolicited feedback, be it scathing criticism or outright encouragement, that Tiger Woods has received since attempting his latest swing changes, perhaps the most interesting portion has been missed.

It's in his game's very minutaie, so to speak.

Looking back and applying building-contractor terms, the swing changes made under former teachers Butch Harmon and Hank Haney seemed like kitchen renovations. However, the newly minted Sean Foley process is more akin to a complete, 14-club teardown, right to the cinder-block bones of the short game.

Even when his game was otherwise raggedy during the transitional times working with Haney and Harmon, Woods' short game usually kept him in the ballgame. That hasn't yet been the case this season.

At the Cadillac Championship on Wednesday, Woods attempted to explain why his short game has deteriorated over the past few months -- because, for the first time, that phase of the bag has been completely overhauled, too.

Without getting needlessly technical, Woods said his "release" point under Foley also has changed with chips, pitches and putts, so he's had to start anew from scratch in that regard as well.

At age 35, it was pointed out.

"I changed my entire release and how I did it with Hank," Woods said. "You want to have the same type of swing with the putter all the way up to the driver. It's the same motion just smaller, and the pitch shot is the same."

Of course, the degree to whcih the short game should be affected by an overall swing change is debatable and will surely fuel a few fires in the Internet chat-o-sphere. 

"If I use one swing, if I hit thousands of chip shots and only hit a few hundred balls, well if I'm doing the same release that I used to, that's totally contrary to what I'm doing with the swing," he said.

In other words, whereas his short game was able a stable platform from which to build the rest of his game, it's in transition at the moment, too.

Interestingly, though the rounder and flatter Haney swing was a big departure from the Harmon method, Haney said Wednesday that the only adjustments Woods made in the short game during their six years together was in the former world No. 1's bunker play, because sand shots are more akin to a full swing.

"I never instituted any change to his putting or for that matter his chipping or his pitching," Haney said in an email Wednesday.

Harmon, working this week as an analyst for Sky Sports in Europe, heard about Woods' comprehensive short-game revamp from a reporter. In their years together, Harmon said they often worked on the short game, but not as an extension of the full swing.

"Did he really say that?" Harmon said. "I am surprised to hear that."

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