McGann Optimistic But Diabetes a Constant Reminder
No surprise there. Shes 78th on the LPGA money list. Only 12 Americans are selected, and the list doesnt reach down nearly as far as 78th. It looks more and more like the Solheim of 96, when McGann played a key role in winning the Cup in Wales, will have no more chapters.
That was the year the Americans trailed Europe, 9-7, going into Sundays singles. But in the third singles match, McGann defeated Europes top player, Laura Davies, 3 and 2. Davies had blown through the Yanks by a combined 16-hole difference and was playing before a hugely enthusiastic home crowd as a bonus. But McGanns 3-wood on the par-3 16th rolled to within four feet of the flag and ended the match with an explanation point. America went on to win 10 of 12 points in the singles matches and came home with a 17-11 victory.
That was supposed to be the 26-year-olds first in a long series of important victories, not the last. But by the time the 98 matches rolled around, a 28-year-old McGann had slipped to 45th on the money list and was not chosen. McGann was 30 in 2000 and finished down in the 31st spot ' not nearly good enough for a selection. And this year, as a 32-year-old, she checks in at No. 78. Thats far too low for Solheim consideration.
McGann, you see, has diabetes. She knew it when she turned professional at the age of 19, electing to forego a college career because she knew she had better play professionally while she could. She had a wonderful career from 92 until 97, never finishing below 18th.
But since then, McGann has had numerous health problems. Shes well set financially with $3.2 million in tour earnings alone and probably at least that much in endorsements. But its tough to be only 32 and, apparently, have your best years behind you.
Michelle had a 67 in a tournament a couple of weeks ago and talked excitedly about how this might be the start of something big again. She had a new putter and it had really helped.
But Friday, it was back to the on-again, off-again golf game as she signed for a 72, then Saturday it was the same old grind with a score of 75. Sunday she showed a little spark of the old form with a 69, but it was another tournament outside the top 20, another day of hoping and praying that she could cope with the frustrations of diabetes.
You start having self-doubt, as in any profession, she said. Ive fought diabetes, everyday - its a fight. Its not a disease you have control over. You have a 500 blood sugar one day and you have to deal with it.
Yesterday it was very hot and there are a few hills out there, and I didnt even realize my blood sugar was getting high and I ate all day. But today I only had a peanut butter sandwich. Its difficult with adrenaline, too. You can let it beat you up or you can get out and fight it.
Shes fought it a long time now. The invention of the insulin pump was a blessing. McGann started using it three or four years ago, and it has helped her keep playing.
It is a pump in my stomach that gives me a constant flow of insulin 24 hours a day, she explained. It helps me be able to keep my blood sugar level. I count the carbohydrates in food and look at what I eat, and instead of taking shots, it is always with me. This insulin is fast acting.
Ive talked to doctors and its a fine line. Adrenaline sometimes shoots it up, but it doesnt affect it all the time. Being dehydrated is a huge factor. When I have high blood sugar, I have headaches, but with the pump my blood sugar stays level.
Still, the diabetes is there, an omnipresent reminder that golf for her could end at any time. Every day is a battle, with McGann struggling to stay positive.
I try to be, said Michelle, but its very frustrating. I had a lot of good goals set for this year, and I felt great starting the year with my health. There is an occasional day when I want to throw the insulin pump and never have diabetes again. I really hope I see the cure someday and dont have to worry about it anymore.
But the insulin pump is wonderful, and its so much easier to manage your own shots. The heat affects me more, especially when I get dehydrated. I think that feeling good with my health all year keep has kept me positive. If my blood sugar is low then high, its hard to adjust.
McGann is fighting two fights. The first, with her fellow LPGA pros, is a struggle to make a living. The other one, far more serious, is with the diabetes. She might be slowly losing the first, but she is winning the second. And really, that is all that matters.
McIlroy gets back on track
There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:
He is well ahead of schedule.
Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.
“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”
To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”
And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.
After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out.
Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.
“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”
The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.
The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)
But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.
Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.
Everything in his life is lined up.
Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.
Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore
Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.
Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.
There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.
Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.
The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.
Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again
Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.
Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.
It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.
Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.
While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.
McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call
Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.
Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.
The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.
McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.
McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.