Stallings leads the Memorial; Woods 4 back

By Doug FergusonMay 31, 2012, 11:32 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Erik Compton considers the Memorial a special week no matter how he plays, knowing his second heart transplant came from a donor in Ohio.

The opening round was even sweeter with three birdies on the back nine late Thursday afternoon at Muirfield Village for a 5-under 67, leaving him one-shot out of the lead after a day that featured a timely rally by Rory McIlroy and a surprising departure by Phil Mickelson.

When the day ended, Scott Stallings was atop the leaderboard with a 66 and hardly anyone noticed.

Compton has been an amazing story as long as he has played golf. He had his first heart transplant at 12, played in the Walker Cup after a solid career at Georgia, nearly died from a heart attack on his way home from the golf course in 2007, had a second transplant in May 2008, and earned his PGA Tour card for the first time last year through the Nationwide Tour.


Memorial Round 1 highlights


'It's just a great story, obviously, and it's a great place – for me, it's a special place,'' Compton said. ''For me, there's not a day that goes by that I don't think about my donor. To be able to play here, regardless of whether I play good or bad, it's just always a nice week.''

It could have been another bad week for McIlroy.

Coming off back-to-back missed cuts that cost him his No. 1 ranking and ramped up the scrutiny, McIlroy took a quadruple bogey on his third hole of the tournament when he went from the bunker to the water, back over the pond to the drop area on a forward tee, and then into another bunker. He blasted onto the green and took two putts for a 7, and there were murmurs from the crowd to see him at 4-over par so early.

The next 15 holes were much better, and he rallied for a 71.

''It wasn't the start I wanted to get off to, being 4 over through three holes, especially after the last few weeks,'' McIlroy said. ''I was just like, 'Here we go again.' But I hung in there well, and proud of myself for the way I just fought back. To finish the round under par, I thought was a really good effort.''

Tiger Woods, playing in the group behind him, chopped up the 18th hole for a double bogey and still managed a 2-under 70.

''I didn't do anything great and I didn't do anything poorly,'' Wood said. ''I was just very consistent. And I think with the golf course being the way it's set up, you just have to be that way. ... Over the next three days, hopefully I can play as well as I did today.''

Mickelson wasn't anywhere near those scores, and when his round ended, he was nowhere near the golf course. Mickelson walked out of the scoring hut after signing for a 79 - his worst score ever at the Memorial - and said he was withdrawing because of mental fatigue.

He said playing three straight weeks, followed by a trip to Europe for his wife's 40th birthday, took too much out of him and he needed extra rest with the U.S. Open only two weeks away. Mickelson was among four players who withdrew after a 79 or worse, though none of the others are four-time major champions who were inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

''I feel like it's the responsibility of a player to see through your commitment and finish the tournament and so forth,'' Mickelson said. ''And I'm kind of overruling that just a touch, because I'm trying to think big picture on what's the best way for me to get ready for the Open.''

The bigger picture might have been the fans in the gallery using their cellphones for photos of Mickelson, Masters champion Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler. Mickelson has a peculiar way of sending a message, though he danced around a question of whether distractions played a role. He said only he struggled to focus from a busy month.

Watson and Fowler painted a different picture.

''It took Phil out of his game,'' Watson said.

Fowler, a little more diplomatic, said the players had to restart their pre-shot routines because of the phone cameras.

''You could see Phil was a little fatigued and was having trouble blocking it out a bit,'' Fowler said.

Muirfield Village was enough to get anyone's attention, even those who had hardly anyone watching them. The first round was played under bright sunshine most of the day, and the course was as fast as it has been in years. Only four players managed to break 70 from the morning wave. Later in the afternoon, as the breeze subsided and some cloud cover arrived, Stallings, Compton and Spencer Levin made a surge.

Stallings had nine one-putt greens and chipped in for eagle on the par-5 seventh. Levin holed a 25-foot eagle on the seventh hole and made birdie on the eighth until dropping a shot on his final hole to join Compton at 67.

Defending champion Steve Stricker bogeyed his last three holes for a 73. Luke Donald, back to No. 1 after winning at Wentworth, felt like he shot much higher. Thanks to his superb short game, particularly three putts to save par from bunkers, he managed a 71.

McIlroy hit three balls in the water on his front nine, though he saved par on one of them. His putter saved him. The 23-year-old from Northern Ireland twice made 8-foot par putts, avoid a three-putt on the 18th with a 6-foot par putt and sprinkled in enough birdies to stay in the game.

The turning point came at the par-5 fifth, when he hooked his tee shot for the gallery. He cursed through clenched teeth, and holding his driver behind him, whacked himself in the back with the grip a couple of times. From the left rough, he played an aggressive fairway metal, low and hot and dead straight, avoiding the water down the left side of the fairway. The ball came up about 15 yards short of the green, and he pitched in for eagle.

''I see enough good shots out there to give me encouragement,'' McIlroy said, one eye toward his title defense in the U.S. Open in two weeks. ''There's still a few that I don't like, but as long as the good ones are in there, then you see the positives.''

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.