McIlroy still searching for answers to putting woes

By Will GrayJuly 30, 2016, 12:43 am

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – Dazzling and disappointing. Awe-inspiring and cringe-inducing.

The dichotomy of Rory McIlroy was on full display this week at the PGA Championship, and the results of his internal schism spanned the spectrum.

On one hand, we had the supremely confident ball-striker, a man who bent Baltusrol Golf Club to his will and led the field through two rounds in strokes gained off-the-tee.

On the other we had a player who seemed mystified once his hands touched a putter, unable to coax the ball to its target from close range after placing it into position with such ease.

McIlroy missed the cut at the season’s final major – in spectacularly creative fashion, of course – but the pensive tone with which he assessed his performance showed this was more than just a 36-hole blip on the radar.

This signaled a growing trend that reached a tipping point in the steamy conditions of North Jersey, an indication that all is officially not well in the land of Ulster.

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“I need to go back to the drawing board and see where we go from here,” McIlroy said.

McIlroy’s entire year can perhaps be summed up by his final hole at Baltusrol. He bombed a towering, 312-yard drive into the skinny neck of the fairway, easily eschewing a pond that gobbled up several tee shots during the second round.

An aggressive 5-iron from 209 yards barely missed the mark, and then the trouble began.

One flubbed chip. Then another. McIlroy believed he needed birdie to make the cut, when in fact a par would have sufficed. Instead, he left with a bogey that ended his chances and sparked some serious introspection.

“I think if you had given anyone else in the field my tee shots this week, they would have been up near the top of the leaderboard,” he said. “It just shows you how bad I was around the greens.”

McIlroy is now out of major chances this year, and he soon may be running out of options to solve his putting woes. He finished 151st in strokes gained putting this week among a 156-man field that, remember, included 20 club professionals whose day job does not revolve around making 10-footers.

The switch to a cross-handed grip at Doral in March didn’t do the trick, nor did a return to a conventional grip at the Memorial in June. Hours logged with putting guru and former PGA champion Dave Stockton didn’t provide a salve, nor did the time he spent Thursday evening on the Baltusrol putting green, alone amid the raindrops save for the watchful eye of swing coach Michael Bannon.

Top-10 finishes like the ones McIlroy logged at Augusta National and Royal Troon are good for the bank account and a few world ranking points, but they can also mask symptoms of an ailment that runs bone-deep. McIlroy stood at the podium Friday evening clearly frustrated, but also shaken to his core and unsure where next to turn.

“I need to do something,” he said. “Tee to green is good, I just need to figure out what to do on the greens. I need to have a long, hard think about that.”

Players go through droughts, and putters sometimes run cold. But this – it’s more than just a dry spell.

For McIlroy, it’s another week of elite ball-striking jettisoned down the drain. Another missed opportunity to quell the voices clamoring for him to re-join the Big Whatever.

It’s another glaring example that scintillating drives and soaring irons aren’t quite enough if the 14th club in the bag fails to cooperate.

The divide in McIlroy's game has never seemed more apparent, and the urgency for him to bridge the gap is near an all-time high.

But after a surprising early exit from the PGA, this much is clear: the problem isn’t going to resolve itself, and it might send McIlroy back to square one in search for answers.

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Snedeker starts slow in effort to snag Masters invite

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.

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.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."