McIlroy leads by four thanks to another 66

By Associated PressJuly 18, 2014, 7:09 pm

HOYLAKE, England – Rory McIlroy cast aside any talk of those second-round doldrums with a performance at Royal Liverpool that threatened to turn this into another major championship runaway.

As for Tiger Woods, he was fortunate just to make the cut at the British Open.

Any hopes of a duel between the guy who once ruled golf and the player most likely to take his place as the face of the game quickly faded Friday as McIlroy romped to a 6-under 66 that gave him a commanding lead heading to the weekend.

This is starting to look like his first two major victories, both by eight shots, at the 2011 U.S. Open and the 2012 PGA Championship.

''I feel like I just have an inner peace on the golf course,'' McIlroy said. ''I very comfortable in this position. I'm very comfortable doing what I'm doing right now. It's hard to describe. I wish I could get into it more often.''

Woods used to know that feeling.

Not on this day. In his first major of the year after undergoing back surgery, Woods showed his rust by struggling to a 77, his worst round at the British Open since that 81 at stormy Muirfield in 2002. A triple-bogey at the 17th nearly sent him home for the weekend, but a delicate chip over a pot bunker at the 18th set up a 6-foot putt that gave him his only birdie of the day.

It was just enough to keep him around for the weekend.

He's got almost no chance of catching McIlroy, trailing the leader by a whopping 14 shots, though he did bring up Paul Lawrie rallying from 10 shots down on the final day to catch Jean Van de Velde at Carnoustie in 1999.

Of course, that would require McIlroy falling apart the way Van de Velde did.

What are the chances of that?

''I'm pretty far back,'' Woods conceded. ''Hopefully I can play well and give myself a shot going into the back nine on Sunday.''


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Woods has failed to make the cut at a major only three times in his professional career, most recently at the 2011 PGA. He also missed at the 2006 U.S. Open, shortly after the death of his father, and the 2009 British Open.

McIlroy's matching 66s gave him a 36-hole total of 12-under 132 - the same score that Woods posted at the midway point of his last British Open victory in 2006, at this very same course along the Irish Sea.

There were no more questions about the strangest quirk in McIlroy's year - a mysterious run of high scores in the second round, which no one could explain but had admittedly gotten in his head.

The 25-year-old from Northern Ireland wiped those thoughts away by the time he went out for an afternoon round at Hoylake, where the weather again worked in favor of his end of the draw. Playing early on Thursday, McIlroy benefited from pristine conditions. On Friday, the wind howled in the morning but settled after lunchtime, taking away the primary defense of a links course.

Through the first two rounds, McIlroy has made only one bogey - at the first hole Friday. That was long forgotten by the time he closed with three easy-as-can-be birdies over the final four holes, looking as though he barely broke a sweat on a sunny, sticky day.

''It is not a surprise what Rory is doing,'' Woods said. ''He plays pretty aggressively to begin with, and when he is going he can get it going pretty good.''

Dustin Johnson was McIlroy's closest challenger, claiming a spot in Saturday's last group with the best round of the tournament so far, a 65 that left him at 136.

No one else was closer than six shots, though there's plenty of star power in the group at 138 with former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, young gun Rickie Fowler and perennial major challenger Sergio Garcia, still seeking the signature win of his career after all these years.

Worried about an approaching storm that is forecast to strike Royal Liverpool on Saturday afternoon, the R&A announced it will have players tee off from both the first and 10th holes for the first time in the history of golf's oldest major.

When Woods made a mess of the 17th hole, it looked as though he might not need another tee time. First, he drove far right of the fairway. After walking 150 yards toward his ball, he was told it was out of bounds. Trudging back up the fairway, he teed off again and sent the ball flying into the high grass that separates the 16th and 17th fairways. After four more shots, he had to put down a 7.

That pushed Woods total score to 3 over, one shot higher than the projected cut line as he headed to the par-5 18th. He did manage to pull things together well enough to make a birdie, but at 146 there will be more than 50 players between him and McIlroy.

''I never made anything,'' Woods said. ''I had myself in good positions to make birdies and I didn't do it.''

That wasn't a problem for McIlroy, who had plenty of birdies on his card and another that wanted to horn in on the action. As McIlroy lined up a birdie putt on the eighth green, a pheasant strolled into his path. He shooed it away with help from his caddie - and rolled the ball right into the cup.

''I haven't run into that before on the golf course,'' McIlroy said. ''I might have had a swan or a duck or a geese or something. Never a pheasant. But it was nice. It didn't put me off.''

Nothing does, it seems.

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.