Former No. 1s Rory, Luke look to salvage season

By Doug FergusonSeptember 10, 2013, 11:03 pm

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Down to his last chance, Rory McIlroy knew this was no time to be riding the brakes.

''I have to be aggressive,'' he said Tuesday.

McIlroy wasn't gripping a golf club. He was behind the wheel of an electric BMW i3 in a vacant parking lot at an amusement park north of Chicago, racing against the clock and against Gary Woodland in a charity event.

They each had four attempts around a makeshift track of straightaways and hairpin turns. McIlroy needed to shave 4 seconds off his best time for a $100,000 scholarship to be awarded in his name through the Evans Scholars Foundation. Hitting a cone added 2 seconds to the time.

Dust kicked up when he took the car down the straightaway. Tires screeched around the turns.

Cones went flying.

''I lost track of how many I hit,'' McIlroy said with a laugh when he got out of the car.

It wasn't much different from how his golf has gone this year.

McIlroy left the racing behind and drove at a more reasonable speed to Conway Farms Golf Club to get ready for the BMW Championship, the third FedEx Cup playoff event and perhaps the last tournament. That's surprising for a guy who started the year at No. 1 in the world.

He is No. 41 in the FedEx Cup standings. McIlroy figures he needs to finish among the top seven against a 70-man field to be among the 30 players who advance to the Tour Championship with a shot at the $10 million prize. That doesn't sound so hard, except it would be his best finish in five months.

McIlroy doesn't have the market cornered in disappointment.


BMW Championship: Articles, videos and photos


Luke Donald was still No. 1 in the world just over a year ago, and he was No. 2 when the season began. He has made it to the Tour Championship every year since 2009, so often that going to East Lake should be an afterthought. Donald, however, is No. 54 in the FedEx Cup.

''I think someone who was at the pinnacle of the game not too long ago and is now 54th on the FedEx Cup, it's been disappointing,'' Donald said. ''It's been very hard this year. It's been frustrating at times, and I've had to make some tough decisions in terms of changing swing coaches. But I feel good about where things are headed, and I'm excited about the future. This year, I still have time to rescue it.''

McIlroy isn't about to give up on his year, either.

His issues stem from the short game, though there have been plenty of distractions off the golf course that are subject to speculation - swapping out his entire set of golf equipment by signing a big endorsement contract with Nike, and then deciding to leave management companies for the second time in 18 months. That situation still has not been resolved, and it can be awkward to have two managers around him at the same time.

There are signs McIlroy is getting closer. He has been held back the last two tournaments by making eight double bogeys, which have kept him from at least having a sniff of contention going into the final day. What really troubles him, though, is losing shots around the green.

McIlroy went to the Bahamas during the week away from golf, comparing statistics from last year to this year, and reaching some clear conclusions.

He was mildly surprised to see that two ball-striking statistics were about the same - 60th this year and last in greens hit in regulation, 145th in driving accuracy this year, compared with 156th a year ago. Then again, statistics don't tell the whole story. McIlroy went from missing fairways by inches to missing them by a mile earlier in the year.

''I'm driving the ball better. I'm hitting a few more greens. That isn't the issue,'' he said. ''I'm just not getting up-and-down as much as I used to. All I did for the last four days was practice those things.''

A few numbers he crunched left him mystified.

''Here's a stat for you,'' he said. ''I was 169th in putts per round in the first round. And I'm first in the second round. That's a strange one. ... But that's the whole thing. It's the short game. That's where I'm throwing shots away, taking four shots to get down. I've just got to cut out the mistakes.''

The sooner the better or his season will be over. McIlroy said he would be more surprised if the year ended without going to East Lake for the Tour Championship than failing to win a major. The latter is far more important, to be clear, but let him explain.

''You have to play really good golf in that one week, four weeks a year,'' he said. ''Everything has to come together, and you need to get a few breaks. But over the course of the season, I feel like I should play well enough to get to East Lake. I didn't expect to be in this position.''

Now he's down to his last chance. Play well. Drive hard. Try not to hit the cones.

Getty Images

Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

Getty Images

Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

Getty Images

Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

Getty Images

Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.