McIlroy Quiros share Masters lead

By Doug FergusonApril 8, 2011, 2:35 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The flair of Rory McIlroy. The sheer power of Alvaro Quiros. These are but two of the fresh faces in golf who offered more evidence Thursday at the Masters that a new generation is on the way.

And that’s only going to make it tougher on Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.

The 21-year-old McIlroy, who opened with a 63 at St. Andrews last summer in the British Open, again delivered exquisite shots on one of golf’s biggest stages for a 7-under 65. It was such a clean round that he didn’t make a bogey and was left wondering how much lower he could have gone if not for missing five birdie chances inside 10 feet.

“It wasn’t maybe as exclusive or spectacular as the 63 at St. Andrews,” he said. “But it was very solid from start to finish.”

Then came Quiros, a 28-year-old Spaniard whom many consider the longest hitter in the game. Blasting away on a course where he had never shot better than 75, he spun an approach back to 3 feet on the 18th hole to catch McIlroy atop the leaderboard.

They had a two-shot lead over a pair of South Koreans, former PGA champion Y.E. Yang and K.J. Choi.

Mickelson and Woods, with six green jackets between them in the last decade, blended in more than they stood out.

Woods played in the morning in only a moderate breeze, ideal conditions for scoring. But he lost his way starting the back nine with consecutive bogeys, made only one birdie on the par 5s and had to settle for a 71.

“I would rather be where Rory’s at,” Woods said. “But, hey, it’s a long way to go. We have a long grind ahead of us. The temperature is supposed to warm up and I’m sure they will start making the pins a little more difficult as the week goes on. I’m right there in the ballgame. I’m only six back, and as I said, we’ve got a lot of golf ahead of us.”

Mickelson was far more erratic off the tee, hitting tee shots into the Georgia pines and spraying one so far into the azaleas left of the 13th fairway that he looked like he was on an Easter egg hunt as he searched for his ball. He hit only four fairways, last in the field of 99 players.

As always, his superb chipping kept him from dropping shots on three straight holes around the turn. His only mistake came on the 18th, when he hit his approach into the gallery left of the green and chipped too hard, missing a 7-foot par putt for a 70.

“I scrambled well today, but I let four or five birdie opportunities slide,” Mickelson said. “I’m going to have to capitalize on those opportunities to go low. I didn’t shoot myself out of it, but I didn’t make up ground on the field like I wanted to.”

The top Americans on the leaderboard were Matt Kuchar and Ricky Barnes at 68. Another shot back was a group that included former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, Brandt Snedeker and Sergio Garcia, who is slowly showing signs of a revival.

The good news for McIlroy was not only a great start to the Masters, but a great forecast.

Last summer in Scotland, the freckle-faced kid from Northern Ireland followed his record-tying 63 with an 80 when he got caught up in the blustery conditions of St. Andrews. He eventually rallied for a tie for third at the Open, and hopes he gained some experience.

“Obviously at the time, I was very disappointed to come off the course and shoot 80 after shooting 63,” McIlroy said. “But looking back on it, it was a very valuable lesson in my development as a golfer. It’s possible that I can go out and shoot another 65, but I know that it’s also very likely that I’m not going to do that.

“So if I do find myself in a bit of trouble, I’m going to have to stick in there, grind it out.”

This was not a day to grind, not with weather that only enhanced the garden beauty of Augusta, and not with hole locations along the front nine that allowed for such good scoring.

Retief Goosen started out by holing an 8-iron from 161 yards on the opening hole, the first player in 24 years to make eagle on the first hole of the Masters. He reached 5 under at the turn, only to get tripped on the back nine for a 70.

McIlroy fired off three straight birdies starting the par-5 second, the best of those a pitch from just outside 60 yards that skipped and stopped a few feet from the hole at No. 3. He hit 7-iron just left of the pin on No. 9, then picked up another birdie on the 11th with a 5-iron that flirted with the pond left of the green and settled 8 feet away.

Two more birdies followed, and McIlroy had another stellar round in the majors. Despite being only 21 – he is the youngest player atop the leaderboard after one round at the Masters – he already has six rounds at 68 or better in the majors on some of the tougher courses, from Carnoustie to Bethpage Black to Whistling Straits.

“Sounds simple,” he said. “But it wasn’t.”

Quiros was in the final group of the day, and it was as explosive as there is in the game. He was joined by Gary Woodland and Jhonattan Vegas, two Augusta newcomers who qualified in recent months with their first PGA Tour win – more examples of a shift toward youth, two players built more for football and basketball than for golf.

They all bash it, and did they ever put on a show.

They combined to make 10 birdies and two eagles over the last six holes, enough reason for the gallery to stick around even as Woods was long gone and Mickelson was on the practice range in the fading sunlight.

Woodland, who played Division II basketball for one year, played his final six holes in 6-under par for a 69. Vegas, such an exciting young player that his colleagues call him “Johnny Vegas,” three-putted for bogey from 12 feet on the 18th for a 72.

Augusta still showed some teeth if players got too careless.

PGA champion Martin Kaymer, the No. 1 player in the world, struggled again at the Masters and shot a 78. He has never made the cut, and it looks as though this might be another short week. Lee Westwood, runner-up to Mickelson last year, opened with a 72.

“It’s not my game at the moment,” Westwood said. “If you can’t hole it out from 4 feet, you’re going to struggle.”

No one struggled more than Henrik Stenson, who shot an 83.

Quiros used to know that feeling. He made his Masters debut with rounds of 78-75 two years ago, and the lanky Spaniard couldn’t do better than 75 in two rounds last year. So when he came to the course, he only checked the scores of his countrymen.

As for that 65 that McIlroy posted?

“You have to see, this is my third appearance, and my best score was 75,” Quiros said. “I cannot be pretending to see the leaderboard. It would be stupid.”

But he made up ground quickly with his length, making birdie on all the par 5s and staying out of trouble. He doesn’t have the secrets unlocked at the Masters, and despite being tied for the lead, he still is thinking only of making the cut.

“The two previous years, I came to the Masters thinking that I can play well, shoot low. And this one was my main mistake,” he said. “Because it’s a golf course … it’s too tough. And today, I was very happy making pars. This is why probably I shoot 65.”

Then again, maybe it’s wise not to think too far ahead.

In the last 25 years, Trevor Immelman is the only Masters champion who was atop the leaderboard after the opening day.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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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.