McIlroy: 'Outside expectation' led to playoff schedule

By Will GraySeptember 15, 2017, 8:20 pm

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Rory McIlroy knows that after 36 holes at the BMW Championship, whatever slim chances he had of advancing to East Lake to defend his FedExCup title have essentially vanished. But that doesn’t mean the Ulsterman is ready to throw in the towel.

McIlroy was in the first threesome of the day Friday at Conway Farms Golf Club, where he shot a 2-under 69 to move to 2 under for the week. It’s a red number and his second round included five birdies, but it’s still 11 shots behind the blistering pace set by Jason Day and Rickie Fowler.

McIlroy entered the week ranked 51st in the season-long points race, and he likely needs a top-5 finish this week to advance to the Tour Championship – a nearly impossible feat based on his position after 36 holes.

“It’s hard because I know that realistically there’s not much chance of getting in next week, but I still want to go out there and play well,” McIlroy said. “I’m here, so I might as well try to play well and try to get the most out of myself.”

Even McIlroy’s presence this week outside Chicago might have come as a surprise based on his comments following a T-22 finish at the PGA Championship. McIlroy appeared dejected in the heat of Quail Hollow, and he opened the door to possibly shelving his clubs for the rest of the year in light of his inability to shake a nagging back and rib injury.


BMW Championship: Articles, video and photos

Full-field scores from the BMW Championship


But the former world No. 1 ultimately decided to give it a go at The Northern Trust, where he tied for 34th two weeks after the PGA. He also teed it up at TPC Boston, where his title defense abruptly ended with a missed cut.

While he explained that playing the last three events hasn’t made any further impact on his existing injury, he also hinted that the decision to tackle the playoffs was not entirely his.

“Some decisions aren’t completely up to the individual,” McIlroy said. “There was outside expectation from elsewhere. I played these events for two reasons: thinking that I still had a chance, but for trying to fulfill obligations elsewhere. So there was two parts of it.”

McIlroy took 10 full days off following his early exit from TPC Boston, and he still plans to play the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship next month on the European Tour. After that, though, he doesn’t expect to touch a club again until the week of Thanksgiving.

It’ll be six full weeks of rest, but in McIlroy’s mind it will be a worthwhile investment of time with an eye on starting next season with a clean bill of health.

“I completely expect myself to play well next year,” he said. “If I have a really good offseason and prepare and practice on the right things, come out mentally fresh and physically fresh, I feel like ’18 will be a really good year for me. And that’s sort of where my mind is at.”

Thompson wins Race, loses tournament after short miss

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 8:52 pm

The drama went down to the very last hole in the LPGA's final event of 2017. Here's how things ended up at the CME Group Tour Championship, where a surprising miss from Lexi Thompson opened the door for Ariya Jutanugarn to win in dramatic fashion:

Leaderboard: Ariya Jutanugarn (-15), Lexi Thompson (-14), Jessica Korda (-14), Pernilla Lindberg (-13), Eun-Hee Ji (-13)

What it means: There were scenarios aplenty entering the final round, with nearly every season-long accolade still hanging in the balance. Thompson appeared set to take them all as she sized up a 2-foot par putt on the final hole - a stroke that looked like it would take her to world No. 1 for the first time. Instead, the putt barely touched the hole and allowed Jutanugarn to rally to victory with birdies on the closing two holes. Thompson still took home $1 million for winning the season-long Race to the CME Globe, as it was a reverse scenario from last year when Jutanugarn won the $1 million but not the final tournament.

Round of the day: Sei Young Kim made the day's biggest charge, turning in a 6-under 66 to close the week in a share of 11th at 10 under. Kim made eight birdies during the final round, including five over her first eight holes en route to her lowest round of the week while erasing a third-round 75.

Best of the rest: Jutanugarn seemed like an afterthought as the tournament was winding down, but she kept her hopes alive with an 18-foot birdie on No. 17 and then capitalized on Thompson's mistake with a clutch birdie on the difficult final hole. It capped off a final-round 67 for the Thai who now ends what has been a tumultuous season with a smile on her face.

Biggest disappointment: Thompson faced heartbreak after the penalty-shrouded ANA Inspiration, and she again must handle a setback after essentially missing a tap-in with everything on the line. Thompson can enjoy a $1 million consolation prize along with the Vare Trophy, but a tournament win would have clinched Player of the Year honors as well as her first-ever trip to world No. 1. Instead, she now has the entire off-season to think about how things went awry from close range.

Shot of the day: There were only three birdies on No. 18 during the final round before Jutanugarn laced one down the fairway and hit a deft approach to 15 feet. The subsequent putt found the target and gave her win No. 7 on her young LPGA career.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.