A Star is Born Kid from Holywood on Center Stage

By Associated PressJuly 19, 2007, 4:00 pm
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- The kid from Holywood sure looks like a star.
 
Of course, Rory McIlroy also looks like he got into the British Open with one of those tickets that allows juniors through the gates for free if they're with an adult.
 
Whatever the case, the baby-faced teen from Northern Ireland -- who claims to be all of 18 but could pass for even younger -- beat up on most of the grown-ups Thursday while shooting the only bogey-free opening round at Carnoustie.
 
Justifiably proud of his 3-under-par 68, McIlroy pondered the improbable: For one night, at least, he'd go to bed with a one-stroke edge on Tiger Woods, the two-time defending Open champion and the youngster's No. 1 role model.
 
'I think he'll be able to sleep all right,' McIlroy joked. 'But, yeah, it's a pretty special feeling to say you shot one better than Tiger.'
 
Woods wasn't the only one looking up to McIlroy after 18 holes.
 
He bested his playing partners, seasoned pros Henrik Stenson and Miguel Angel Jimenez. Heck, only two players -- leader Sergio Garcia at 65 and Paul McGinley with a 67 -- went lower than the lad from Holywood.
 
That would be Holywood, Northern Ireland, a town of 12,000 near Belfast that shares a pronunciation with America's movie capital, though hardly the glamour. Asked if his hometown has produced anyone else of note, McIlroy paused before answering.
 
'I think the guy who invented the cat's eyes in the road was from Holywood,' he said.
 
Although that was quite a step forward for transportation -- cat's eyes are reflectors on the highway that make it easier for motorists to differentiate the lanes at night -- the intrepid inventor might have to take a back seat to Holywood's newest sensation.
 
McIlroy was just three strokes off the lead, and he could have been even closer if not for a three-putt par at No. 6 and a 3-foot birdie attempt that slid by the cup at 14. After tapping in the latter for another par, he pulled the bill of the cap over his eyes, then snapped around in disgust.
 
There weren't many moments like that, though. For the most part, McIlroy was cheered by steadily increasing galleries, the fans taking the cherubic, floppy haired kid under their wing and carrying him right through to the 18th, where he received a rousing ovation crossing over the Barry Burn for the final time.
 
'I got a chill down the back of my spine,' McIlroy said.
 
Not that he hasn't been preparing for this moment most of his young life. McIlroy's father, Gerry, is a scratch golfer who still can beat his son on occasion. The family patriarch has belonged most of his life to the Holywood Golf Club, a par-69, 6,100-yard layout where young Rory honed his game.
 
'It's not that much of a test for me anymore,' he said. 'But it's good to go out there in the evening and practice my short game. There's some slopey greens and stuff on it, so it's pretty good.'
 
McIlroy finished up his schooling in Northern Ireland at 16 and briefly considered enrolling at a U.S. university, looking for a spot where he could work on his game year-round.
 
But once he got away from the classroom, he wasn't too keen on going back. So he focused on his golf, traveling as far as Australia to play while holding off on turning pro.
 
McIlroy helped Europe win the Junior Ryder Cup in 2004 (that doesn't bode well for U.S. hopes down the road) and got exempted into a few pro events, missing out on a payday when he made the cut this year at the Dubai Desert Classic before turning 18. He'll probably start accepting checks after playing the Walker Cup in September.
 
'He's fearless. He's a great ball striker, he's got a good short game and he's a good putter as well,' Stenson said. 'He seems to have it all. I think we'll be hearing more about him in the future.'
 
McIlroy admittedly was nervous when he stepped to the first tee. He took in a huge mouthful of air and tried to calm himself, though it took a few holes to settle down. He started with four straight pars before striking a 4-iron to 15 feet at No. 5, then sinking the putt for his first birdie.
 
After that, he felt as though he belonged.
 
'I don't think a bogey ever ran across my mind,' McIlroy said. 'I don't think I had many bad shots to put myself in a position to make bogeys. I just sort of went out there with the mind-set that I'm going to enjoy myself.'
 
Did he ever. Now, it might be time to adjust those goals.
 
McIlroy came to Carnoustie hoping to make the cut and win the silver medal as the lowest-scoring amateur. Shortly after walking off the course on a cool, gray Scottish evening, he was thinking of Justin Rose, who debuted at the Open as an amateur in 1998 -- and finished fourth at Royal Birkdale.
 
'If he can do that at that age (Rose was just shy of his 18th birthday), I'm sure I can as well,' said McIlroy, his confidence growing with every word. 'That's probably going to be mind-set for the next few days.'
 
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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