McIlroy on fast track to No. 1 ranking

By Doug FergusonFebruary 27, 2012, 8:44 pm

MARANA, Ariz. - Hunter Mahan figured out the fuss over Rory McIlroy without any help.

Mahan listened, but was not surprised, when fans called out McIlroy’s name along the fairways of Dove Mountain. There is a certain appeal about Boy Wonder that makes it hard for people not to stare when he walks past them.

Mahan agrees with all the talk about McIlroy’s bid to become No. 1. He just wanted to make sure it didn’t happen at his expense Sunday in the Match Play Championship. Mahan, as much as any American player, has seen this day coming.

They first played against each other three years ago in the Match Play - it was McIlroy’s pro debut in America - and the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland birdied the last two holes for a 1-up win in the second round.

A year later, Mahan and Zach Johnson faced McIlroy and Graeme McDowell in a foursomes match at the Ryder Cup. The Americans were 3 down after just seven holes and wound up losing.

So when Mahan talked about his tough road to the championship match, and how he had to beat five great players to get there, he quickly added, “I’ve got to beat one more incredible player to win.”

That’s what Mahan did Sunday to capture his second World Golf Championship title.

Even though that win moves Mahan closer to the elite among American golfers, he should understand why more people left the West Coast still buzzing about McIlroy, and how much better he can get.

McIlroy would have had to win the Match Play to replace Luke Donald at No. 1.

That now seems inevitable.

“He’ll get there,” Mahan said. “I mean, he’s phenomenal. He’s really talented. He’ll be No. 1 eventually. I’m not worried about it. I’m sure he’s not.”

McIlroy could get there this week with a win at the Honda Classic, or perhaps a week later at Doral. The kid will take a three-week break after that to get ready for the Masters, where he will be among the betting favorites along with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who have seven green jackets between them.

Donald had that look of inevitability about him last year, too, though it took him an extra month when Lee Westwood won two events against weak fields. Donald became No. 1 by beating Westwood in a playoff at Wentworth at the end of May. He has been there since.

Now, however, Donald is starting the new season slowly, much like Westwood did a year ago when he went eight tournaments out of the top 10. Donald has three finishes out of the top 30.

Donald was an inspiration to all the medium-length hitters by proving that a player doesn’t have to fly it 300 yards to be No. 1. Then again, power and consistency beats consistency every time.

That’s why McIlroy has the look of a No. 1 player.

Since that injury scare at the PGA Championship last year, when McIlroy tried to hit a 7-iron with a tree root in the path of his swing, he had finished out of the top 10 just once in 11 tournaments. He won an unofficial event in Shanghai against a world-class field and the Hong Kong Open. He was runner-up in the Dunhill Links, Korea, Abu Dhabi and the Match Play.

This is the consistency that the great ones have.

As for his game?

McIlroy has a swing that’s easy on the eye, packed with plenty of power. He has a keen short game, and there was no better example of that in the semifinal match against Lee Westwood. He pitched 20 feet away from the flag to ride the spine of a ridge, and watched the ball gently take the slope to a foot for birdie.

He has looked suspect at times with short putts, but from outside 20 feet, just about every putt looks as if it has a chance.

The knock on McIlroy is that he has only four wins - none in Europe in a bit of anomaly. For someone who has played primarily the European Tour the last three years, someone with that talent should be expected to win more. Martin Kaymer, the 27-year-old German who has been on tour one year longer than McIlroy, already has 10 wins, including a major and a World Golf Championship.

But the quality of McIlroy’s wins can’t be ignored - a 62 in the final round to win at Quail Hollow and the U.S. Open.

Just two months after he collapsed at the Masters with an 80, McIlroy showed remarkable resilience by shattering records at the U.S. Open for an eight-shot win at Congressional, where he finished at 268. That score wins Memphis, not the U.S. Open.

Still, it’s the failures that make McIlroy’s future look so limitless.

In the last few years alone, he tied a major championship record with a 63 at St. Andrews. He was tied for the lead late in the final round of the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, and narrowly missed a birdie putt on the last hole that would have put him in a playoff. Yes, he shot 80 at the Masters. Don’t forget the 54 holes that preceded that.

No one is about to lay down for McIlroy, as Mahan showed Sunday at Dove Mountain.

Westwood squandered a chance to win in Dubai, and while McIlroy in effect called him out and then beat him in a high-stakes semifinal, Westwood looks in good form. A return to No. 1 is not out of the question.

McIlroy, however, has youth on his side. He doesn’t turn 23 until May. He is fitter and much stronger than he was a year ago. Odds are he has yet to hit stride. And while this doesn’t bode well in the long run for Donald or Westwood, to see McIlroy on the verge of becoming the best in golf is going to make it that much harder on Tiger Woods, too.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

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