McIlroy opinions spun into criticism of Tiger

By Doug FergusonMarch 9, 2011, 2:11 am

WGC-Cadillac ChampionshipDORAL, Fla. – Rory McIlroy has said nothing wrong.

One of the brightest young stars in golf, McIlroy has been making news over the last few weeks for giving his opinion on Tiger Woods, and there really isn’t much good to say about the game of the No. 5 player in the world.

Yet the perception is that McIlroy is taking one too many jabs at Woods, and that he is soon to join the list of players whose criticism comes back to haunt them.

But that assumes it was criticism in the first place.

In an essay under McIlroy’s byline in Sports Illustrated’s “Golf Plus” section, McIlroy said that Woods is not playing as well as he did a couple of years ago, let alone a decade ago when no one was close to him in the game.

“I’m not sure we are going to see him dominate again the way he did,” McIlroy said in the essay. “He never seemed like he would make a mistake. It’s not that he’s playing badly. He’s simply playing badly by Tiger’s standards. He’s playing like an ordinary golfer. People expect more of him because of what he has achieved.”

Indeed, there are questions as to whether Woods can rule golf the way he did in 2000, when his nine wins included three straight majors. Or the way he did after his father died in 2006, when he won 18 of 33 tournaments worldwide, four of eight majors and had a seven-month stretch without ever losing.

Can anything else be disputed?

The problem is that Woods, through a dozen years of unprecedented dominance, has created a culture of being off limits to other players giving honest answers.

And remember, answers usually are the product of a question.

This only looks bad on two counts. One is that it’s easy to pile on Woods right now, even though he has only himself to blame. The other is that the commentary is coming from a 21-year-old with all of two career victories, who has never faced Woods at his best.

“That’s the answer a 21-year-old would give, isn’t it?” Lee Westwood said last week with a smile. “I think having played with Tiger since 1997 or something like that … there’s an old saying that class is permanent and form is fickle. He’s the classiest player I’ve ever played with and I’d be wise enough to know not to write him off.

“I’ve seen him play poorly and win tournaments,” Westwood said. “He doesn’t necessarily have to get back to where he was.”

And then he whimsically added, “I’ll have a word with Rory later.”

Last year, McIlroy talked about Woods before the Ryder Cup, when the American had yet to be added to the U.S. team as a captain’s pick. In an interview with an Irish newspaper, he said he expected Woods to be in Wales.

“I would love to face him,” McIlroy said. “Unless his game rapidly improves … I think anyone in the European team would fancy their chances against him.”

The interview took place a week after Woods finished next-to-last at Firestone, where he had won seven times and never finished out of the top 10. Woods had his worst 72-hole score as a professional that week. He didn’t look capable of beating anyone.

A month later, there were rumors swirling around Cog Hill that Woods had told McIlroy, “Be careful what you wish for.” Woods denied that, although he was aware of the comments. And while he mentioned McIlroy in context with Stephen Ames, Woods also gave the kid a break. “At least Rory said, ‘Unless my game improves,”’ Woods said, a concession to fact.

The reference to Ames came from the 2006 Match Play Championship, when Ames was the No. 64 seed and jokingly said on the practice range about his chances, “Anything can happen – especially where he’s hitting the ball.”

It was harmless humor, although the quote became far more serious in the “lift, clean and paste” era of the Internet that eliminated all context. Asked about it after the match, Woods only mentioned the score – 9 and 8.

There have been others. Rory Sabbatini once said Woods looked as “beatable as ever” after losing to him at Quail Hollow, and three months later, Woods went from a one-shot deficit to Sabbatini to an eight-shot victory at Firestone.

Some of these grudges are overcooked.

Woods wasn’t bothered by Sabbatini’s comments as much as he was Sabbatini withdrawing from the Chevron World Challenge before the final round. And while Vijay Singh’s caddie wrote, “Tiger Who?” on the back of his cap at the Presidents Cup before Woods’ 2-and-1 victory, he and Singh have long had mutual respect for each other.

McIlroy’s only playful jab came two weeks ago at the Match Play Championship, when he was asked about a potential changing of the guard with so many good young players. He started to say that Woods and Phil Mickelson have not gotten any worse when he paused and said with a smile, “Well, yeah, I mean I don’t think Phil has gotten any worse.”

If he is guilty of anything, McIlroy believes it’s getting his message out the right way. He recently saw an interview with Sean Foley, Woods’ swing coach, who said that Woods had spoiled golf fans with a level never before seen. And with the depth on tours across oceans, it might be hard to repeat that.

Maybe the kid should keep it short, for it was on Twitter where McIlroy made himself perfectly clear.

“Hate that the media thinks I’m taking jabs at Tiger all the time. Best that’s ever lived. Ever. Just not playing his best at the minute. If he plays his best we’re all screwed. Hard to dodge the Tiger questions when you get 10 every interview you do.”

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.