Aggressive approach has McIlroy again in major contention

By Jason SobelAugust 11, 2012, 11:30 pm

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Most observers called it a childish decision from a golfer just barely removed from being a child.

This was the opening round of last year’s PGA Championship and young Rory McIlroy, just two months after winning the U.S. Open, was faced with a shot on the third hole of Atlanta Athletic Club from the root of a tree.

It was the type of shot that defines what kind of player a guy is.

No, more than that. It was the type of shot that defines what kind of person he is.

Video: Rory McIlroy's news conference

Punch the ball carefully back into the fairway and he’s the type of person who plans ahead, who considers the future, who plays it safe in hopes of greater returns later.

Take a mighty lash toward the green and he’s the type of person who lives in the moment, who throws caution to the wind, who tries to play hero in the face of danger.

Rory McIlroy took a mighty lash. He is that type of person.

Forget that he barely advanced the ball from that tree root. Forget that he carded a bogey on the hole. Even forget that he strained tendons in his right forearm that hampered his performance for the remainder of that week and a few subsequent tournaments, as well.

It may not have been the proper decision, but it taught us plenty about him as a player and a person.

That story is relevant exactly one year later, as McIlroy owns a share of the lead at the very same tournament halfway through his third round.

If we’ve learned anything while watching the 23-year-old in the last two editions of this event, it’s that hubris can get a man nowhere or everywhere.

Just as his aggressive nature at last year’s PGA sealed his fate with 69½ more holes to play, that same innate characteristic has helped him vault up the leaderboard here at the Ocean Course. Finishing nine holes before the rain came on Saturday, he posted five birdies and moved past some superstar fellow competitors to grab a share of the lead with Vijay Singh at 6 under.

“Look, when you're an aggressive player, you're going to have days where it doesn't go so well and then you're also going to have days like this,” McIlroy explained. “I'm just happy that a day like that came today.”

Whereas some of the other contenders struggled to play with such boldness on an opening stretch of holes that was yielding some lower scores – including, ahem, a certain 14-time major champion – McIlroy stepped on the gas pedal and never looked back.

He made birdies on Nos. 1, 2, 5, 7 and 8, taking sole possession of the tournament lead for the first time before his first setback with a bogey on the ninth.

“Today the pins were a little friendlier, so you could take a few chances here or there and go for them,” he said. “My short game saved me a little bit, too, on the front nine. I had a couple of great up-and-downs for pars to keep the good start going. I hit a couple of great iron shots into the par 3s on the fifth and on the eighth, which turned out to be birdies.”

Those into symmetry will point out that McIlroy had another run-in with a tree on Saturday. Instead of the root, this time it was the top of a tree that gobbled his drive on the third hole, his ball wedging in its bark.

He received a free drop from there, leading to par, later joking about his pugnacity, “I'm just glad I didn't try and play that ball from the tree.”

It was about the only aggressive shot that he didn’t try to hit during these nine holes.

That’s the thing with being the type of person who takes a bold approach. Sometimes you end up failing and injured. Other times you’re the hero.

It’s all about seeing the forest through the trees. And the tree roots, too.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.