McIlroy heads into weekend at 11 under

By Associated PressJune 17, 2011, 12:10 pm

BETHESDA, Md. – In one of those can’t-miss moments in sports, thousands of fans covered every inch of space on the hill behind the 10th green at Congressional. They spilled onto the clubhouse veranda, pressed their faces against the windows and lined up against the balcony railing to watch Rory McIlroy deliver a performance never before seen in the U.S. Open.

“It was Tiger Woods of 11 years ago,” Ian Poulter said.

In some respects, it was even better.

McIlroy, the sympathetic figure at The Masters, was as close to perfect as golf allows Friday during a stunning assault on the record book. The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland became the first player in the 111-year history of the U.S. Open to reach 13-under par, and despite a double bogey into the water on the final hole, his 5-under 66 was enough set the 36-hole scoring record at 131.

He had a six-shot lead over former PGA champion Y.E. Yang (69), matching the U.S. Open record set by Woods in 2000 at Pebble Beach for the largest margin at the halfway point.

McIlroy went 17 holes without missing a green. He went 35 holes without making a bogey.

“It’s very near the best I can play,” McIlroy said.

Not since Woods destroyed his competition at Pebble Beach in 2000 for a record 15-shot victory has anyone made golf look this easy, at least for two rounds.

As if playing under complete control were not enough, McIlroy hit a wedge from 114 yards some 15 feet behind the flag on No. 8, then watched it roll down a slope and into the cup for eagle. The only time he came close to making bogey was on the par-4 11th, when he blasted out of a bunker to 8 feet and made the putt.

He tied the U.S. Open record of 12 under - previously held by Woods in 2000 and Gil Morgan in 1992, both at Pebble Beach - on the par-5 16th with a 4-iron from 223 yards that settled 8 feet from the cup.

“I told him, ‘I don’t think you’ll see a better golf shot,”’ his caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald, said.

Then came the 17th, when McIlroy hit 7-iron from 175 yards that covered the flag, barely cleared the bunker and left him 15 feet below the hole for yet another birdie to go to 13 under.

That number just isn’t seen on leaderboards at the U.S. Open.

“It’s crazy, isn’t it?” Steve Stricker. “Pretty incredible what he’s done so far.”

McIlroy knows better than to start the celebration before Sunday. He was buoyed by support coming into the U.S. Open because of the calamity at Augusta National from two months ago, when he led by four shots going into the final round of the Masters and shot 80, the kind of collapse that isn’t easily forgotten.

“It’s been two very, very good days of golf,” McIlroy said. “I put myself in a great position going into the weekend. But I know more than probably anyone else what can happen. So I’ve got to stay really focused and try and finish this thing off.”

The second round was halted for 42 minutes because of thunderstorms, and Yang held it together on the stronger back nine to at least stay in range. The South Korean is no stranger to big deficits in the majors. It was only two years ago, in the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine, that he trailed Woods by six shots going into the weekend and wound up winning by three.

“I’m not going to chase anyone,” Yang said. “I’m just going to play my game.”

Sergio Garcia had a 71 and joined Snedeker at 2-under 140 among those who finished the second round. Just his luck - and Garcia doesn’t have much of that in the majors - he is playing solid golf at a major where someone else is playing out of this world. Also at 140 were Robert Garrigus and former Masters champion Zach Johnson.

“It’s only two days,” Johnson said. “I’m not going to give it to him yet.”

The second round was suspended by darkness, forcing 21 players to return Saturday morning to complete their round. And it left everyone who finished wondering if there was any chance of catching McIlroy.

“Rory is obviously running away with it, so we are pretty much playing for second unless something crazy happens tomorrow,” PGA champion Martin Kaymer said. “I hope he wins, though. He’s a nice person and he deserves it, especially after the Masters.”

Lee Westwood wasn’t ready to concede after a 68 left him 12 shots behind, although he made yet another reference to Pebble Beach in 2000 when he said his goal was second place, and added, “We’ll see what Rory does.”

“He’s had leads before,” Westwood said.

As for what advice he would give McIlroy?

“I’m supposed to beat him over the next two days,” Westwood said. “I’m hardly going to give him advice, am I?”

It was hard to ignore what felt like a coronation for McIlroy as he eased his way around the golf course. Toward the end of his round, the gallery in the grandstand gave him a standing ovation as the freckle-faced wonder boy with the bounce in his step simply walked onto the green.

McIlroy played with four-time major winner Phil Mickelson, one of the biggest crowd-pleasers in golf who simply was along for the ride. Mickelson, who also made double bogey on the 18th, shot a 69 to finish at 1-over 143.

“He’s striking it flawlessly and putted great on the greens,” Mickelson said. “His first two rounds were very impressive.”

During one stretch on the front nine, Mickelson made three birdies in four holes and didn’t make up any ground. McIlroy laid up from the rough on the par-5 sixth and hit wedge to 5 feet for birdie, then holed out for his eagle on the eighth.

The burst of cheers when the ball dropped for eagle was enough to make the group ahead take notice as they stood on the ninth tee. There was Retief Goosen, hands on hips, looking over at the green. Stricker took one last look as he walked off the tee to confirm his suspicions on who hit the shot.

Deep down, he knew it all along.

“We figured it was probably him just the way he was going,” Stricker said.

McIlroy wasn’t finished. From 190 yards, he hit a 6-iron to about 5 feet behind the hole at No. 14 for birdie, then finished with his back-to-back birdies on the 16th and 17th to reach 13 under.

Only four other players have reached 10 under or better at any point in a U.S. Open - Morgan, Woods, Jim Furyk at Olympia Fields in 2003 and Ricky Barnes at rain-soaked Bethpage Black in 2009. None of them got there after only two rounds, much less the 26 holes it took McIlroy. As for 13 under?

“I didn’t see 13 under on this golf course after any day,” Snedeker said.

McIlroy’s only mistake came on the last hole. From the left rough, McIlroy was aiming for the front right portion of the green away from the water. He turned it over just enough for the ball to bounce off the bank and into the water, and he failed to get up-and-down.

He lost two shots, but not his perspective.

This was golf at its absolute best, and the scoreboard showed it. Congressional was softened by overnight rain, which was obvious with the “splat” from balls landing on the green, instead of bouncing hard and into the rough as they so often do in this major.

But the measure of great golf not always comes from the leader, but those chasing him. What made Woods’ record win at Pebble Beach so impressive is that he finished at 12-under 272, and no one else was better than 3-over par. Such was the case at Congressional. Among those who had finished 36 holes, only seven other players had managed to break par, and no one was within nine shots of McIlroy.

“It’s been coming,” Poulter said. “It’s not a surprise to me, and I don’t think it’s a surprise to you. He’s that good.”

In the last 14 rounds at the majors, McIlroy has been atop the leaderboard six times.

He has been in the lead after every round except the one that matters.

“I’ve played two really good rounds of golf, but I know I have to play another two really good rounds of golf if I want to win this tournament,” McIlroy said. “So that’s all I can really think about.”

Hensby takes full responsibility for violation

By Rex HoggardDecember 13, 2017, 5:28 pm

The PGA Tour’s Anti-Doping Program manual covers 48 pages of details, from the pressing to the mundane, but for Mark Hensby the key section of the policy could be found on Page 5.

“The collector may allow you to delay reporting to the testing area for unavoidable obligations; however, you will be monitored from the time of notification until completion of the sample collection process,” the policy reads. “A failure to report to the testing area by the required time is the same as a doping violation under the program.”

Hensby, a 46-year-old former Tour winner from Australia, didn’t read that section, or any other part of the manual. In fact, he said he hasn’t received the circuit’s anti-doping manual in years. Not that he uses that as an excuse.

To be clear, Hensby doesn’t blame his anti-doping plight on anyone else.

“At the end of the day it’s my responsibility. I take full responsibility,” he told GolfChannel.com.

Like Doug Barron, Scott Stallings and even Vijay Singh before him, Hensby ran afoul of the Tour’s anti-doping policy because, essentially, of a clerical error. There were no failed tests, no in-depth investigations, no seedy entourages who sent Hensby down a dark road of performance-enhancing drug use.

Just a simple misunderstanding combined with bad timing.

Hensby, who last played a full season on Tour in 2003, had just completed the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship when he was approached by a member of the Tour’s anti-doping testing staff. He was angry about his play and had just used the restroom on the 17th hole and, he admits, was in no mood to wait around to take the urine test.

“Once I said, ‘Can I take it in the morning,’ [the Tour’s anti-doping official] said, ‘We can’t hold you here,’” Hensby recalled. “I just left.”

Not one but two officials called Hensby that night to ask why he’d declined to take the test, and he said he was even advised to return to the Country Club of Jackson (Miss.) to take the test, which is curious because the policy doesn’t allow for such gaps between notification of a test and the actual testing.

According to the policy, a player is considered in violation of the program if he leaves the presence of the doping control officers without providing the required sample.

A Tour official declined to comment on the matter citing the circuit’s policy not to comment on doping violations beyond the initial disclosure.

A week later, Hensby was informed he was in violation of the Tour’s policy and although he submitted a letter to the commissioner explaining the reasons for his failure to take the test he was told he would be suspended from playing in any Tour-sanctioned events (including events on the Web.com Tour) for a year.

“I understand now what the consequences are, but you know I’ve been banned for a performance-enhancing drug violation, and I don’t take performance-enhancing drugs,” Hensby said.

Hensby isn’t challenging his suspension nor did he have any interest in criticizing the Tour’s policy, instead his message two days after the circuit announced the suspension was focused on his fellow Tour members.

“I think the players need to read that manual really, really well. There are things I wasn’t aware of and I think other players weren’t aware of either,” he said. “You have to read the manual.”

It was a similar message Stallings offered following his 90-day suspension in 2015 after he turned himself in for using DHEA, an anabolic agent that is the precursor to testosterone production and banned by the Tour.

“This whole thing was a unique situation that could have been dealt with differently, but I made a mistake and I owned up to it,” Stallings said at the time.

Barron’s 2009 suspension, which was for a year, also could have been avoided after he tested positive for supplemental testosterone and a beta-blocker, both of which were prescribed by a doctor for what were by many accounts legitimate health issues.

And Singh’s case, well that chapter is still pending in the New York Supreme Court, but the essential element of the Fijian’s violation was based on his admitted use of deer-antler spray, which contained a compound called IGF-1. Although IGF-1 is a banned substance, the World Anti-Doping Agency has ruled that the use of deer-antler spray is not a violation if an athlete doesn’t fail a drug test. Singh never failed a test.

The Tour’s anti-doping history is littered with cases that could have been avoided, cases that should have been avoided. Despite the circuit’s best educational efforts, it’s been these relatively innocent violations that have defined the program.

In retrospect, Hensby knows he should have taken the test. He said he had nothing to hide, but anger got the best of him.

“To be honest, it would have been hard, the way I was feeling that day, I know I’m a hothead at times, but I would have probably stayed [had he known the consequences],” he admitted. “You’ve got to understand that if you have too much water you can’t get a test either and then you have to stay even longer.”

Hensby said before his run in with the anti-doping small print he wasn’t sure what his professional future would be, but his suspension has given him perspective and a unique motivation.

“I was talking to my wife last night, I have a little boy, it’s been a long month,” said Hensby after dropping his son, Caden, off at school. “I think I have a little more drive now and when I come back. I wasn’t going to play anymore, but when I do come back I am going to be motivated.”

He’s also going to be informed when it comes to the Tour’s anti-doping policy, and he hopes his follow professionals take a similar interest.

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Lesson with Woods fetches $210K for Harvey relief

By Will GrayDecember 13, 2017, 2:51 pm

A charity event featuring more than two dozen pro golfers raised more than $1 million for Hurricane Harvey relief, thanks in large part to a hefty price paid for a private lesson with Tiger Woods.

The pro-am fundraiser was organized by Chris Stroud, winner of the Barracuda Championship this summer, and fellow pro and Houston resident Bobby Gates. It was held at Bluejack National in Montgomery, Texas, about an hour outside Houston and the first Woods-designed course to open in the U.S.

The big-ticket item on the auction block was a private, two-person lesson with Woods at Bluejack National that sold for a whopping $210,000.

Other participants included local residents like Stacy Lewis, Patrick Reed and Steve Elkington as well as local celebrities like NBA All-Star Clyde Drexler, Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane.

Stroud was vocal in his efforts to help Houston rebuild in the immediate aftermath of the storm that ravaged the city in August, and he told the Houston Chronicle that he plans to continue fundraising efforts even after eclipsing the event's $1 million goal.

"This is the best event I have ever been a part of, and this is just a start," Stroud said. "We have a long way to go for recovery to this city, and we want to keep going with this and raise as much as we can and help as many victims as we can."

Getty Images

LPGA schedule features 34 events, record purse

By Randall MellDecember 13, 2017, 2:02 pm

The LPGA schedule will once again feature 34 events next year with a record $68.75 million in total purses, the tour announced on Wednesday.

While three events are gone from the 2018 schedule, three new events have been added, with two of those on the West Coast and one in mainland China.

The season will again start with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic on Paradise Island (Jan. 25-28) and end with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., (Nov. 15-18).

The LPGA played for $65 million in total prize money in 2017.

An expanded West Coast swing in the front half of the schedule will now include the HUGEL-JTBC Championship in the Los Angeles area April 19-22. The site will be announced at a later date.

The tour will then make a return to San Francisco’s Lake Merced Golf Club the following week, in a new event sponsored by L&P Cosmetics, a Korean skincare company. Both new West Coast tournaments will be full-field events.

The tour’s third new event will be played in Shanghai Oct. 18-21 as part of the fall Asian swing. The title sponsor and golf course will be announced at a later date.

“Perhaps the most important aspect of our schedule is the consistency — continuing to deliver strong playing opportunities both in North America and around the world, while growing overall purse levels every year,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement. “There is simply no better [women’s] tour opportunity in the world, when it comes to purses, global TV coverage or strength of field. It’s an exciting time in women’s golf, with the best players from every corner of the globe competing against each other in virtually every event.”

While the Evian Championship will again be played in September next year, the tour confirmed its plans to move its fifth major to the summer in 2019, to be part of a European swing, with the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

The Manulife LPGA Classic and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational are not returning to the schedule next year. Also, the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open will not be played next year as it prepares to move to the front of the 2019 schedule, to be paired with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.

The U.S. Women’s Open will make its new place earlier in the summer, a permanent move in the tour’s scheduling. It will be played May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek Golf Club outside Birmingham, Ala. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (June 28-July 1) will be played at Kemper Lakes Golf Club on the north side of Chicago and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (Aug. 2-5) will be played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.

For the first time since its inception in 2014, the UL International Crown team event is going overseas, with the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, scheduled to host the event Oct. 4-7. The KEB Hana Bank Championship will be played in South Korean the following week.

Here is the LPGA's schedule for 2018:

Jan. 25-28: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic; Paradise Island, Bahamas; Purse: $1.4 million

Feb. 15-18: ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open; Adelaide, Australia; Purse: $1.3 million

Feb. 21-24: Honda LPGA Thailand; Chonburi, Thailand; Purse: $1.6 million

March 1-4: HSBC Women's World Championship; Singapore; Purse: $1.5 million

March 15-18: Bank of Hope Founders Cup; Phoenix, Arizona; Purse: $1.5 million

March 22-25: Kia Classic; Carlsbad, California; Purse: $1.8 million

March 29 - April 1: ANA Inspiration; Rancho Mirage, California; Purse: $2.8 million

April 11-14: LOTTE Championship; Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii; Purse: $2 million

April 19-22: HUGEL-JTBC Championship; Greater Los Angeles, California; Purse: $1.5 million

April 26-29: Name to be Announced; San Francisco, California; Purse: $1.5 million

May 3-6: Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic; The Colony, Texas; Purse: $1.3 million

May 17-20: Kingsmill Championship; Williamsburg, Virginia; Purse: $1.3 million

May 24-27: LPGA Volvik Championship; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Purse: $1.3 million

May 31 - June 3: U.S. Women's Open Championship; Shoal Creek, Alabama; Purse: $5 million

June 8-10: ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer; Galloway, New Jersey; Purse: $1.75 million

June 14-17: Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Purse: $2 million

June 22-24: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G; Rogers, Arkansas; Purse: $2 million

June 28 - July 1: KPMG Women's PGA Championship; Kildeer, Illinois; Purse: $3.65 million

July 5-8: Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; Oneida, Wisconsin; Purse: $2 million

July 12-15: Marathon Classic presented by Owens-Corning and O-I; Sylvania, Ohio; Purse: $1.6 million

July 26-29: Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open; East Lothian, Scotland; Purse: $1.5 million

Aug. 2-5: Ricoh Women's British Open; Lancashire, England; Purse: $3.25 million

Aug. 16-19: Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim; Indianapolis, Indiana; Purse: $2 million

Aug. 23-26: CP Women's Open; Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Purse: $2.25 million

Aug. 30 - Sept. 2: Cambia Portland Classic; Portland, Oregon; Purse: $1.3 million

Sept. 13-16: The Evian Championship; Evian-les-Bains, France; Purse: $3.85 million

Sept. 27-30: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Purse: $1.8 million

Oct. 4-7: UL International Crown; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $1.6 million

Oct. 11-14: LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $2 million

Oct. 18-21: Name to be Announced; Shanghai, China; Purse: $2.1 million

Oct. 25-28: Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship; New Taipei City, Chinese Taipei; Purse: $2.2 million

Nov. 2-4: TOTO Japan Classic; Shiga, Japan; Purse: $1.5 million

Nov. 7-10: Blue Bay LPGA; Hainan Island, China; Purse: $2.1 million

Nov. 15-18: CME Group Tour Championship; Naples, Florida; Purse: $2.5 million

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 4, Jordan Spieth

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 1:00 pm

Dismissed because he’s supposedly too short off the tee, or not accurate enough with his irons, or just a streaky putter, Jordan Spieth is almost never the answer to the question of which top player, when he’s at his best, would win in a head-to-head match.

And yet here he is, at the age of 24, with 11 career wins and three majors, on a pace that compares favorably with the giants of the game. He might not possess the firepower of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, but since he burst onto the PGA Tour in 2013 he has all that matters – a better résumé.

Spieth took the next step in his development this year by becoming the Tour’s best iron player – and its most mentally tough.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


Just a great putter? Oh, puhleeze: He won three times despite putting statistics (42nd) that were his worst since his rookie year. Instead, he led the Tour in strokes gained-approach the green and this summer showed the discipline, golf IQ and bounce-back ability that makes him such a unique talent. 

Even with his putter misbehaving, Spieth closed out the Travelers Championship by holing a bunker shot in the playoff, then, in perhaps an even bigger surprise, perfectly executed the player-caddie celebration, chest-bumping caddie Michael Greller. A few weeks later, sublime iron play carried him into the lead at Royal Birkdale, his first in a major since his epic collapse at the 2016 Masters.

Once again his trusty putter betrayed him, and by the time he arrived on the 13th tee, he was tied with Matt Kuchar. What happened next was the stuff of legend – a lengthy ruling, gutsy up-and-down, stuffed tee shot and go-get-that putt – that lifted Spieth to his third major title.

Though he couldn’t complete the career Grand Slam at the PGA, he’ll likely have, oh, another two decades to join golf’s most exclusive club.

In the barroom debate of best vs. best, you can take the guys with the flair, with the booming tee shots and the sky-high irons. Spieth will just take the trophies.

THE MAJORS

Masters Tournament: Return to the 12th; faltering on Sunday (T-11)

Spieth pars 12, but makes quad on 15

Spieth takes another gut punch, but still standing

Article: Spieth splashes to worst Masters finish

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U.S. Open: 1 over usually good ... not at Erin Hills (T-35)

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The Open: Unforgettable finish leads to major win No. 3 (1st)

Spieth survives confusing ordeal on 13

Photos: Spieth's incredible journey on 13

Take it, it's yours: Spieth gets claret jug

Chamblee: Spieth doesn't have 'it' - 'he has it all'

Article: Spieth silences his doubters - even himself

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PGA Championship: Career Grand Slam bid comes up well short (T-28)

Article: Spieth accepts that Grand Slam is off the table


TWO REGULAR TOUR WINS

AT&T Pebble Beach

Article: Spieth rising from 'valley' after Pebble Beach win

Travelers Championship

Spieith wins dramatic Travelers in playoff

Watch: Spieth holes bunker shot, goes nuts


FUN OUTSIDE OF TOUR LIFE


PHOTO GALLERIES

Photos: Jordan Spieth and Annie Verret

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Photos: Jordan Spieth through the years