McIlroy rolls to victory at the BMW

By Doug FergusonSeptember 9, 2012, 10:51 pm

CARMEL, Ind. – Rory McIlroy faced the strongest collection of contenders at any golf tournament this year Sunday at the BMW Championship.

It was no contest.

Even more disconcerting for everyone else, Boy Wonder was expecting to win all along.

McIlroy fine-tuned his swing and missed only one fairway at soggy Crooked Stick, powering his way to a 5-under 67 to win his second straight FedEx Cup playoff event. They followed a record win at the PGA Championship, giving him three wins in his last four starts to establish himself as the dominant player in golf.

He became the first player since Tiger Woods in 2009 to win in consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour, and with his sixth career Tour win, he joined Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win that many at age 23.

''The more you put yourself in this position, and the more you win and the more you pick up trophies, it becomes normal,'' McIlroy said after his two-shot win over Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood. ''And it feels like this is what you're supposed to do.''

For the longest time, this was what Woods used to do.

''I don't think I'm quite there yet,'' McIlroy said. ''But I'm getting to that stage where I'm thinking, 'This is what I should be doing. I should be lifting a trophy at the end of the week.' It's been great. The last four, five weeks have been incredible, some of the best golf that I've ever played. I'm going to try and keep the run going for as long as possible.''

Never mind that Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh – Hall of Famers with 74 Tour wins and seven majors between them – were one shot ahead. Or that Lee Westwood, a former world No. 1, was playing alongside. Or that Woods was right behind.

McIlroy made back-to-back birdies around the turn to emerge from a four-way tie, and he turned back one last challenge from Westwood and Mickelson with clutch pars. The 23-year-old from Northern Ireland didn't make a bogey until the 18th hole.

''By that time, I had sort of done enough,'' he said.

Mickelson and Westwood tried to chase him down on the back nine at Crooked Stick, only to make mistakes when they couldn't afford any.

Westwood, who lost to McIlroy in the semifinals of the Match Play Championship in February, caught him with a birdie on the par-3 13th. But the weak area of his game showed up at the wrong time – a poor chip on the 14th for bogey, another pedestrian chip on the par-5 15th that led to par. He wound up with a 69.

''I played with him when he was 13, and you could see it then,'' Westwood said. ''He's just maturing all the time, as he will do. And he's a very, very good player.

Mickelson, tied for the lead going into the final round, was one shot behind when his approach flew the green on No. 12 and he had to scramble for bogey. Mickelson made back-to-back birdies late in the round to get within two shots of the lead, but he badly missed a 3-foot par putt on the 17th to fall three shots behind. He closed with a 70.

''A lot of people stayed neutral and Rory geared ahead,'' Mickelson said.

Woods was never seriously in the mix. Five shots behind with seven holes to play, he made three late birdies and shot 68 to tie for fourth with Robert Garrigus (69).

McIlroy's work is not done.

He is the No. 1 seed going into the FedEx Cup finale in two weeks at East Lake, but any of the top five seeds can win The TOUR Championship and capture the FedEx Cup with its $10 million bonus. The other four seeds are Woods, Nick Watney, Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker.

''Rory is putting on a show out there,'' Woods said. ''And we've got one more tournament.''

Any of the top 30 players who advanced to the Tour Championship have a mathematical shot at winning the $10 million prize. One guy who won't have that opportunity is Vijay Singh, who started the final round tied for the lead with Mickelson. The 49-year-old Fijian fell apart on the back nine with three bogeys in a four-hole stretch to fall out of the top 30. A birdie on the final hole gave Singh a 73, but by then it was too late.

McIlroy finished on 20-under 268 and earned $1.44 million, pushing him to over $7.8 million for the season to effectively lock up the money title and all but assured being voted by his peers as the PGA Tour player of the year.

He has four wins on Tour this year – one more than Woods – and that includes a record eight-shot win at the PGA Championship.

This doesn't rate as highly as winning a major at Kiawah Island, though the All-Star cast that he beat made it satisfying – Mickelson, Singh, Westwood, Woods, Dustin Johnson and Adam Scott all were within range of the lead going into the final day.

McIlroy not only beat them all, he managed to take the drama out of the final hour with a towering 4-iron from 226 yards that landed softly and set up a two-putt birdie from 15 feet on the 15th. He followed that with another birdie putt from just inside 15 feet on the next hole to build a three-shot lead.

''He's going out there and is up near the lead and posts a good number,'' Woods said. ''He's doing the things he needs to do, and as he said yesterday, he's feeling very confident about his game. Right now he's just really played well, and he's making a ton of putts. That's a great combo.''

The 70-man field was whittled to 30 for the Tour Championship. Singh's late collapse enabled Scott Piercy to grab the final spot, despite a double bogey on the 14th hole and a bogey on the 18th for a 68. A day earlier, Piercy had a two-shot penalty for removing an out-of-bounds stake on the 14th hole.

But he's in the Tour Championship, which puts him in all the majors next year.

Bill Haas suffered another Sunday meltdown at the BMW Championship, and this time it cost him. He was No. 28 in the FedEx Cup and started the final day in reasonable shape. He made seven bogeys and a double bogey and closed with a 78, falling out of the top 30 to miss the Tour Championship.

A year ago, Haas closed with a 78 at Cog Hill to lose an automatic spot on the Presidents Cup team. But he made it to East Lake, won the Tour Championship to capture the FedEx Cup and the $10 million bonus, and was picked for the Presidents Cup team, anyway. There is no second chance this time, adding to the biggest oddity of this series. For the sixth straight year, the reigning FedEx Cup champion will not be at the Tour Championship.

''When nerves are an issue and under the gun, I've got to be better,'' Haas said. ''And right now, I'm far from competitive.''

Haas wasn't alone in his heartache.

Kyle Stanley was at No. 30. He had a triple bogey on the par-3 sixth, a bogey on the par-5 11th and closed with a 74 to miss out on East Lake by one shot.

Mickelson set the tone for this wild day when he pushed his opening drive so badly that he started to hit a provisional ball when he realized it clattered off the trees and back into the fairway, just 200 yards off the tee, though he safely managed a par. Then, he holed out from just over 40 feet off the green at No. 2 to take the lead, and kept a slim margin with a nifty up-and-down at the par-5 fifth.

But when he missed the green from the fairway on No. 7 and made bogey, the final round was wide open.

Ahead of him, Johnson chipped in for eagle on the par-5 ninth to create a four-way tie for the lead with Mickelson, McIlroy and Westwood.

Westwood made birdie from the bunker on the ninth, while McIlroy hit a sky-high 4-iron that landed softly and set up a two-putt birdie that put them ahead at 18 under. Mickelson, playing in the final group, ran a chip out of muddied grass to 12 feet and made birdie to join them.

McIlroy stuffed his approach into 5 feet for birdie on the 10th, and he never trailed again.


Note: Watch Rory McIlroy on 'Late Night with Jimmy Fallon' tonight at 12:35 a.m. ET on NBC.


Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

“I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

“He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.