McIlroy prepares for Masters with last-minute Texas Open

By Associated PressApril 3, 2013, 11:50 pm

SAN ANTONIO – Rory McIlroy's last-minute, last-ditch effort to right his game in time for the Masters next week has taken a trip to a usually out-of-the-way spot on the PGA Tour. McIlroy and three other highly-ranked players in the Official World Golf Rankings start play in the Valero Texas Open on Thursday at TPC San Antonio.

''It obviously was a last-minute decision to come and play here in San Antonio,'' McIlroy said after his pro-am round Wednesday was washed out by rainstorms on his 13th hole. ''But from what I see I like it. It should be a good week, a week where I can try to get my game sharp going to Augusta.''

Big-name players don't often seek the Greg Norman-designed Oaks Course at TPC to sharpen their games.

Last year only two members of golf's top 50 (no one in the top 15) played on a course that ended with the highest overall scoring average on Tour except the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course. In addition to McIlroy, top-15 ranked players Matt Kuchar (ninth), Ian Poulter (12th) and Charl Schwartz (15th) are teeing it up. Ben Curtis, 2003 British Open winner, is the defending champ.


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Yet McIlroy's play since he won the PGA Championship by a record eight-shot margin in August has dropped him a spot, from No. 1 to 2, while Tiger Woods went back to the top after three wins.

McIlroy started the year swinging the same brand of clubs as Woods, but not the same game. He missed a cut at Abu Dhabi, walked off the course as defending champ at the Honda Classic and got beat in opening-round play at the World Match Play in Arizona.

''I don't care if I miss 10 cuts in a row – if I win a major,'' McIlroy said. ''I don't care. I mean, that's what it's all about, winning the big tournaments.''

McIlroy comes to San Antonio for the first time, and he's off his second made cut of the year, a 45th-place finish at the Shell Houston Open. Though notables like Woods and Phil Mickelson aren't attracted to the TPC course as a Masters prep, other players who have come here share McIlroy's view of getting in one more competitive event and dismiss his recent skid.

''All Rory has to worry about is peaking the right weeks,'' said Padraig Harrington, also in the Texas field. ''His game is plenty good enough that when he does peak, he can lap fields.''

In addition to the hardscrabble layout Norman crafted in the beginnings of the Texas Hill Country, the weather plays havoc on the event. Last year, Matt Every shot an opening-round 63, a course record, in rather benign conditions. The next day he teed it up with a wind that suddenly howled at 30 mph in places and he shot 74.

Winds could reach 25 mph during Thursday's opening round.

McIlroy got in a full practice round on Tuesday before getting washed out on the back nine Wednesday.

Though Mickelson was critical of the Tour last week for stopping at the TPC course the week before The Masters, Poulter recently decided it was a good move for him to play.

''Phil's mentioned that it's the wrong thing for him to do, to come to a course like this to play golf, but I disagree,'' Poulter said. ''I'm happy to stand on that tee next Thursday (at Augusta National), and I've got to hit it 10 yards left of that bunker, I'm fine with that. I can pick up on that pretty quick.''

The TPC course had four greens altered and two fairways widened before this year's event. Yet some places remain unchanged, like the tree-choked right side of the par-4 9th where Kevin Na drove his tee shot two years ago and finally emerged with a score of 16. He's not here this year.

''And you don't want to hit it in the greenside bunkers here because you're unlikely to get a decent stance and lie,'' Harrington said. ''That's very unpopular among us professional golfers because we like to have nice lies and we like to have everything perfect.''

Maybe it's not perfect. But it will have to do for players running out of time to hone their games – like McIlroy – with a green jacket waiting in Georgia.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry