McNealy going pro? He's preparing that way

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2017, 2:40 pm

SOUTHPORT, England – The will-he-or-won’t-he? drama that has surrounded Maverick McNealy for the past few years is beginning to die down.

The former Stanford star is nearly ready to announce a decision about his future plans.

“I’m preparing as if I’m going to play professional golf and trying to sort all that out,” he said Wednesday at The Open, which he qualified for as the recipient of the 2016 McCormack Medal, given to the No. 1-ranked player at the end of the amateur season.

“After the U.S. Amateur (in mid-August) is when I’ll have everything in order and know what I want to do.”

McNealy is expected to enter the pro ranks after the Walker Cup in September. He has already received a sponsor exemption into the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open and Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, and given his credentials and backstory, he should receive the maximum seven sponsor exemptions allowed to non-members.

McNealy has intrigued observers at the pro and college level ever since he said two years ago that he wasn’t sure whether he’d try pro golf or enter the business world like his father, Scott, the former co-founder of Sun Microsystems.

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McNealy said his game is “trending in the right direction” after a disappointing performance at the NCAA Championship, where he and his Stanford teammates failed to make the stroke-play cut. He said Wednesday that he sprained the SI joint in his back before the third round of NCAAs and experienced shooting pain down his left leg. The last day of his college career “wasn’t a whole lot of fun.”  

After missing the cut at the U.S. Open, McNealy played in last week’s John Deere Classic, finishing in a tie for 44th, his fourth made cut in six career events. He said it was the “most comfortable” he’s ever felt at a Tour event, and he’ll tee it up again in a few weeks at the Barracuda Championship near Lake Tahoe.

This week’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale will be “another good learning experience.”

“It’ll show me how close my game is and give me a better expectation and idea for where that is,” he said. “Whether I play great or poorly this week, it’s not going to change that much. But it’s going to show me what I need to do to play better.”

McNealy said his management science and engineering major at Stanford has proved beneficial as he makes one of the biggest decisions of his life, and he has enjoyed researching different equipment companies and talent agencies. This week he will use a TaylorMade staff bag, but only because his Stanford carry bag isn’t waterproof. (He uses a TaylorMade driver and ball but still plays Nike irons.)

“It’s been fun getting to know everyone in the golf business,” he said.

And soon McNealy will learn so much more.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.