Punch Shot: 2015 bigger for McIlroy or Scott?

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2014, 3:54 pm

Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott are set to duel Down Under in this week's Australian Open. McIlroy edged Scott a year ago for the title. The upcoming year looks to be a big one for both players, with McIlroy eyeing the career Grand Slam and Scott trying to win majors before the anchor ban takes effect. For whom is 2015 bigger? Our writers weigh in:

By RYAN LAVNER

Rory McIlroy.

We’ve seen this movie before – Boy Wonder captivating the golf world, winning majors and other top-tier tournaments, ascending to world No. 1. Remember 2012? That’s when McIlroy won the PGA Championship and four other worldwide tournaments to solidify his standing as the game’s next star.  

Then 2013 happened, and for a variety of reasons (equipment change, relationship rumors, management issues) he was knocked back down a few pegs. The competitive bell curve had come to define the early stages of his career.  

So now, after another banner year, after the best summer of his life, 2015 is shaping up to be a monster season for McIlroy. Still only 25, he needs to show that he’s capable of consistency – not just week-to-week, or month-to-month, but over the entirety of his year.  

Though his lawsuit figures to pose a significant distraction in the spring, everything else in his life seems to be in order. Whether that stability leads to continued success remains to be seen. 


By JASON SOBEL

Let's face it: This isn't a make-or-break year for either of these guys. Both are established world-class talents. Even if they falter in 2015, both have proven in the past that they can bounce back from disappointing campaigns.

With that in mind, this year is bigger for McIlroy, for the simple reason of what he could accomplish.

It all comes down to an April week in Georgia, where he could win a third straight major and become the sixth player ever to claim the career Grand Slam before his 26th birthday. If it happens, everything else he does for the year is gravy.

Scott will have a new caddie and one final year of being able to anchor his putter, so there's probably some sentiment that he'll have a sense of urgency this year. But the stakes are bigger for McIlroy, just because he's chasing history.


By REX HOGGARD

After a relatively injury-free 34 years, Adam Scott would appear to be reaching the prime of his impressive career, and yet 2015 will still looms as a pivotal season for the Australian.

Nearly 10 years younger, Rory McIlroy will feel more pressure in ’15 as he eyes the final leg of the career Grand Slam at Augusta National, but it will be Scott who will find himself on the proverbial clock.

It won’t be injury or indifference that sends Scott’s career into decline; it will be golf’s institutional shift away from anchored putting.

When the USGA and Royal & Ancient mandated last year’s ban on anchoring many considered Scott the player who would be most impacted.

A superior ballstriker who can overpower the game’s longest golf courses, Scott’s putting has always been suspect even with his broom-handle putter.

In 2013, when he won his maiden major and Australia’s first green jacket, Scott ranked 103rd on the PGA Tour in strokes gained-putting. Last year Scott ranked 55th in putting, his best position in that category in a decade, but he only won once on Tour.

Perhaps Scott can find a viable alternative to anchoring to cure his putting woes, but he hasn’t yet.


By RANDALL MELL

The anchored putter challenge makes 2015 a bigger year for Adam Scott.

With the ban against anchoring a stroke against the body beginning at the start of 2016, the pressure will begin to escalate for Scott to figure out what he’s going to do. He has 2015 to make the most of his last year anchoring and to figure out whether he’s going to go to a standard putter or modify his stroke with the long putter.

McIlroy doesn't have that to worry about.

Scott’s on record believing he won’t have an issue, but until he starts seeing putts go in without anchoring, it’s an issue. That's because anchoring appears to have made a huge difference for him in majors. Though his putting stats were actually good for most of his career with a standard putter, there’s no denying his performance in majors took off with the anchored putter. Scott did not have a top 10 in a major in the four years before he made the switch to a long putter. In the 16 majors since switching, he has nine top 10s, including his Masters’ victory in ’13. He has been T-5 or better in five of his last 10.

At some point this year, Scott has to square away a future putting plan.

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McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. 

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?