McIlroy, Horschel share Tour Championship lead

By Doug FergusonSeptember 13, 2014, 10:33 pm

ATLANTA – Rory McIlroy made up a two-shot deficit on Billy Horschel at the Tour Championship on Saturday, setting up a $10 million showdown to end the PGA Tour season.

McIlroy overcame a pair of three-putt bogeys by rolling in a 25-foot eagle putt on the 15th hole, and closing with a tough chip from thick grass behind the 18th green that allowed him to save par for a 3-under 67.

Horschel led by as many as three shots during the third round at East Lake until he dropped two shots on the back nine and had to settle for a 69.

They were at 9-under 201. And they had plenty of company in what was shaping up as one of the most enticing finishes in the eight-year history of the FedEx Cup.

Jim Furyk, winless since he captured the FedEx Cup four years ago, had a 67 and was two shots behind. He would have to win to have any chance of joining Tiger Woods as the only multiple winners of golf's biggest bonus.

Rickie Fowler (67), Justin Rose (66) and Jason Day (70) were three shots behind.

''It's going to be an exciting day,'' Horschel said after posting his 11th consecutive round in the 60s during the FedEx Cup playoffs.


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McIlroy has been losing a little energy since that high-charged performance that carried him to major titles in the British Open and PGA Championship, with a World Golf Championship sandwiched in between. He knows he's already had the best year, and he would like nothing better than to end it right.

''I've come here with the ultimate goal of trying to cap it off and trying to put an exclamation point on it or the icing on the cake or whatever you want to call it,'' McIlroy said. ''Would it be poetic justice? I'd feel really good about it.''

McIlroy says he hasn't been playing his best, certainly not at the same level as Hoylake or Valhalla, where he won his two majors. But he was good enough. He three-putted the par-3 second hole, missing a 3-foot putt. He had to make a 4-footer to avoid his third four-putt in two weeks.

But all was forgotten when he drilled a 5-iron from 209 yards up the hill on the par-5 15th to the back collar of the green, just over 25 feet from the flag. He knocked that in for a share of the lead, and then hung on with pars.

Horschel, coming off a runner-up finish at the TPC Boston and a victory last week at Cherry Hills, stretched his lead to three shots with a 6-foot birdie putt on No. 8 and matching two-putt birdies with McIlroy at the ninth.

Both players made bogey on No. 10, and McIlroy appeared to be in more trouble at the par-3 11th until the world's No. 1 player chipped to 8 feet and saved par, and Horschel missed his 15-foot birdie attempt.

''My short game really saved me today,'' McIlroy said. ''I think the par putt on 11 was a big momentum putt in the round after three-putting 10 and Billy being in there pretty close and just narrowly missing for birdie. I think being able to hole that par putt was big.''

The top five seeds at the Tour Championship - Horschel is No. 2, McIlroy is No. 4 - only have to win the Tour Championship to capture the FedEx Cup. This is the first time that two top-five seeds are in the final group of the final tournament of the year.

Furyk doesn't need to do the math. He only knows he has to win, and that was his priority after another year of close calls. Ditto for Fowler (No. 9) and Day (No. 10).

''Really all you can ask for going into the week is to be in a position to win Sunday,'' Fowler said. ''The tournament is really going to start tomorrow on the back nine. I know pretty much most of the scenarios for me. I know if I win I've got a pretty good chance. I know there's some possibilities of some extracurricular activities if certain things line up properly.''

He was referring to the most bizarre possibility of all - if Fowler and McIlroy are tied at the end of regulation, there would be a sudden-death playoff to determine who wins the Tour Championship. And if Fowler were to win the tournament in that case, there would be another playoff to decide the FedEx Cup and the $10 million.

Fowler first would have to make up three shots on McIlroy, which is not easy under any circumstances. And while McIlroy is running low on fuel, there's only lap left.

''I just want to win,'' McIlroy said.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.