Tag:rory mcilroy
Posted on: March 8, 2012 6:19 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2012 6:56 pm
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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 11:08 am
Edited on: March 8, 2012 12:03 pm
 

What would a win mean for each of these players?

Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood pose in China. (Getty Images)

By Shane Bacon

The WGC-Cadillac Championship kicks off this Thursday, and all top-50 players are in the field for the stacked event. And while all of the guys in the field have a chance, we decided to give you an idea of what a win would mean for some of the bigger names in the field. 

Rory McIlroy (World Ranking: 1) -- A win would really cement all those “next Tiger” stories, and show that while he’s happy to win events like Honda Classic, he isn’t exactly content with one win early in his season. Rory probably has the most pressure this week because he has to back up a big performance at the Honda, and if he can pull a victory out at Doral, it would really show his internal fortitude. 

Luke Donald (WR: 2) -- Lost in all this McIlroy-Woods chatter, we must remember that Donald was the No. 1 player in the world before Rory took it from him, and still has tons of game. A win by Donald would show that he’s tougher than we think, and is really ready to fight against the best for big wins. 

Lee Westwood (WR: 3) -- Talk about lost in the shuffle, Westwood closed with a final round 63 at the Honda Classic, but barely anybody remembered it because of Tiger’s 62. He has barely won anything on American soil, but his game is sharp, and if he won it would mean that he is finally ready to claim victory at events with all the big names in them.

Phil Mickelson (WR: 12) -- You never know what you’re going to get from Lefty these days, but his win at Pebble Beach showed he is still hungry to win, and a victory at Doral this week would show that 2012 might be another year that Mickelson goes wild. He’s the type of player that can still win four or five events a season, and if he won at the Blue Monster, we’d all have to put him first on our Masters prediction lists.

Tiger Woods (WR: 16) --  A win for Tiger? It would mean everything. He could stop answering questions about how close he is. He could finally get a real tournament monkey off his back (unlike the small field at the Chevron). He would show that he can play well back-to-back weeks and would tell the rest of the golfing world that he isn’t exactly ready to hand over the game to the younger generation. 

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Posted on: March 7, 2012 10:10 am
 

Rory McIlroy, and the Oakley Experience

Rory McIlroy celebrates both his Honda Classic victory and becoming No. 1 in the world. (Getty Images)

By Shane Bacon

Two weeks ago, I got an e-mail from someone with Oakley asking if I’d be interested in heading out to the Honda Classic to check out their new line of apparel, spend some time with a few of their athletes, and, well, hang out “Oakley style.” 

Little did I know that their new line of gear is incredible, the athletes included soon-to-be world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and “Oakley style” basically means “become one of the family,” so I accepted begrudgingly because I’d just spent three weeks traveling outside of the country, and frankly, I was tired.

But the trip was a success mainly because it allowed me to see a few things about the company and their newest star in Rory. 

First off, Rory. You know from his game that he’s a stud, but spending a little time with him, even from an observation deck, made it clear to me that he gets it, unlike a certain someone we media folks have dealt with for years and years. Rory spent time with media members, occasionally opening up his iPhone to show pictures, laughing along with a few of the guys and talking candidly. The few minutes I got to observe McIlroy in the flesh had me convinced that this was his week, and the tournament hadn’t even started yet. 

If you’re in the media in any context you get your chance to be around athletes. Some are quiet and scared of what celebrity-ism brings. Others are loud and fun and enjoy the life of the party, knowing that their life is better than yours and occasionally showing you that with no regret. Then there are people like Rory. The quiet, confident assassin that at just 22-years-old makes you think he’s 30, and with the demeanor and drive to not only be great, but to be historic. Winning in bunches this next decade is going to be tough, because the talent level is very even, but if you had to bet on one player to pull ahead of the rest, and claim four or five wins a year, Rory sure seems like that guy you should go all-in with. He carries that aura and doesn’t mind it. He knows he’s the star in a room full of players. He doesn’t mind holding the torch, no matter the heat. 

And the fact that Oakley signed him makes even more sense after you spend some time with their guys. A confident group by design, the sunglasses speak for themselves (one of the display had us shoot large BBs at the glasses at 140 MPH and they didn’t penetrate which makes you feel a lot more confident when you have friends with the golfing abilities of my bunch), but it is their push into apparel that has everyone excited. The lightest golf shoe in the world. Designs that can go from a calm blue to a rainbow splash on displays right next to each other (and, btw, a golf jacket that comes out soon that has solved that “zip off your sleeves when it’s raining but you’re too warm” annoyance we’ve all encountered on the course). 

Hanging with the boys over 18 holes of golf was, simply, comfortable. They want people to enjoy their products and feel like if McIlroy and others are sporting the stuff it must be the best, but these employees are just as much a part of the Oakley culture as the celebrities they pay seven figures to. 

How was the experience at PGA National? Incredible, but not in a corporate way. It was incredible because it was a group of people inviting you, accepting you, and having a good time with you, occasionally showing you why they are in the golf business to stay but mostly just showing you that the group understands a mantra most don’t; work should be fun, and fun it is. 

A meet-and-greet with McIlroy is a special thing, but standing back and watching how he can light up a room is exciting. 

The kid has “historic” written all over him, and there is a reason the letter “O” is in that word. 

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 5, 2012 11:44 pm
 

Rory McIlroy plays tennis with Maria Sharapova

By Shane Bacon

We know that Rory McIlroy has the chops to win on the links. His victory last week not only came over Tiger Woods, but it made him the No. 1 golfer in the world. And his girlfriend? A former No. 1 tennis player in the world, and she was taking place in the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden.

Caroline Wozniacki asked for a volunteer to play a point against Maria Sharapova, and she just so happened to pick her boyfriend, Rory.

Watch McIlroy win a point against Sharapova and celebrate more than when he won on Sunday.

 

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 5:42 pm
 

Rory and Tiger a smash hit for tour TV ratings

By Steve Elling

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Once again, the public appetite for Tiger Woods, even 30 months after his last PGA Tour victory, never seems to wane.

Rising star Rory McIlroy did his fair share, too.
 
With the two leading men trading shots down the stretch on Sunday, the Honda Classic pulled its best overnight rating in a decade, grabbing a 3.2 rating for the final round, where McIlroy held off the charging Woods by two strokes.

The rating is the best for the event's final round since 2002, when Matt Kuchar won the event. McIlroy held on and became the new No. 1 player in the world, withstanding a 62 posted by Woods, the best final-round score of his career.

In all, the network reported a Sunday rating that 78 percent higher than the mark at Honda. which managed a 1.8 overnight for the final round. The broadcast hit high tide with a 4.3 rating as McIlroy in the telecast's final minutes.

With the No. 1 ranking on the line for McIlroy, the reigning U.S. Open champion, NBC earned a 1.9 overnight rating on Saturday, marking the best third-round overnight since '05. NBC sister network Golf Channel averaged 1.04 million viewers for its coverage on Thursday, marking the event's most-viewed opening round ever.

On the ground, Honda officials claimed a 44 percent increase in fans, drawing 162,000 for the week.

Posted on: March 5, 2012 11:29 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 12:14 pm
 

MMSC: Rory, Tiger, and the art of closing

Rory McIlroy reacts after his final putt drops at the Honda Classic. (Getty Images)

By Shane Bacon

Golf is probably the hardest sport in the world to play, and play well, so it makes total sense that everyone is a critic, and that’s what we’re going to do here at Monday Morning Swing Coach. Cover just the PGA Tour? Nope. We're going to try to expand this Monday feature to anything and everything that happened the past weekend. 

Rory and Tiger most impressive at closing

A lot of things will be made about what happened on Sunday at the Honda Classic. Tiger Woods’ charge up the leaderboard. Rory McIlroy winning and becoming No. 1 in the world. 

But the thing that impressed me the most? How both were able to finish their rounds. 

So many times pro golfers will play great until the end, see what they are doing, and lose focus. You saw that with Brian Harman on Friday, when a holed bunker shot would have landed him in the 59 club, but instead of making the shot, he hit it three feet and then missed the putt for a 60. Sure, 61 is great, but that focus was lost for a second and a shot was dropped that would have allowed him his first top-10 finish on the PGA Tour. 

Tiger has been struggling mightily in recent events he was in contention in with actually closing the round. The tournament that comes to mind first was the Masters a year ago, when Tiger made a run early in his round only to struggle on the holes he usually dominates. 

Not this Sunday. Tiger put together a fantastic round in swirling winds, and finished it with a birdie-eagle finish. 

McIlroy was no different. His scrambling and bunker play on Sunday reminded me of Retief Goosen back in 2001 at Southern Hills, but Rory kept missing his golf shots in the right spots, and kept hitting unbelievable chip shots in short range of the cup to give him chances at par, which he converted. 

The comparisons of Tiger and Rory are plentiful after Sunday, but the thing that Woods used to do that separated himself from the pack was play well with a lead, and Rory did just that on Sunday, closing his round out with solid pars when he knew that was all he needed. A less steady McIlroy might have let the Tiger charge ruin him. The new Rory didn’t, and his ability to make the important putts down the stretch allowed him to breeze up the 18th hole with a two-shot lead and an easy run at par and the win. 

A confidence boost week

There are so many names that will be looking back at the Honda Classic with positive thoughts. 

The easy ones are Rory and Tiger, both using this week as a springboard for the rest of the season, but look down the leaderboard and see all the big names that played well at the Champions Course. 

Tom Gillis almost quit golf at one point, but played steady all week, even in the final round, and made a clutch birdie on the last hole to tie for second with Tiger and earn some serious dough he can put towards his 2013 card. 

Lee Westwood was paired with Woods early in the week, and while Tiger always outshines the rest of the field, we shouldn’t forget that Lee fired a final round 63 before Tiger finished to jump 23 spots for a fourth place finish alone. 

And then comes Rickie Fowler. I had a discussion early in the week about the state of Fowler’s game and we decided the kid was regressing and maybe needed a swing change to get to more consistent. 

Maybe I was completely wrong. Rickie shot 66 on Sunday for his first top-10 finish of the season and showed he isn’t completely lost out there. 

The Nationwide Tour’s U.S. Open?

This past weekend, the Nationwide Tour headed to Panama City for an event at the Panama Golf Club, and I’m just going to toss this out there; you might want to avoid that golf course if you want to keep your pride in tact. 

The winning score was 4-under, courtesy of Edward Loar, but he shot a final round 74 to win the event and only six players all week finished in red figures. 

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Posted on: March 4, 2012 8:21 pm
 

Honda cherry on top of great start to '12 season

Tiger Woods reacts to his eagle on the 18th green at the Honda Classic. (Getty Images)

By Shane Bacon

The 2012 PGA Tour season has been absolutely nutty good, and we haven’t even had the first major yet. But how good? Check out some of the finishes we’ve had in just 10 events.

  • Farmers Insurance Open: Maybe not exactly the way you’d want to win, but the Kyle Stanley collapse at Torrey Pines is definitely a moment you won’t soon forget, and gave us our first “Is this really happening” moment of 2012. Brandt Snedeker’s reaction and eventual win will be forgotten here much like Paul Lawrie at Carnoustie, but is paved the way for collapses early in the season.
  • Waste Management Open: This one was great for so many reasons. You had Stanley bouncing back to win a week after the collapse you read about above. You had Spencer Levin leading by six shots heading into the final round and by seven shots after his first hole on Sunday only to fall apart. Oh, and you had the biggest crowd in the history of the TPC Scottsdale event. 
  • AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am: Probably the one you’ll remember out of all the ’12 events so far, with Phil Mickelson coming back against Tiger Woods with that sizzling 64. 
  • Northern Trust Open: Just the fourth tournament in a row that had scream-at-your-TV moments. Bill Haas was the eventual winner, but the birdie putts Mickelson and Keegan Bradley made back-to-back to join Haas in the playoff were so incredible it made this guy do whatever the heck that is.
  • Mayakoba Golf Classic: It went up against the Accenture so not as many people noticed, but a rookie named John Huh won in an eight hole playoff. 
  • The Honda Classic: You already know, but Tiger posting a 62 on Sunday was only the second coolest thing that happened just behind Rory McIlroy simultaneously winning his first PGA Tour event of the year and becoming world number one for the first time in his young career. 
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