Damaged greens, Singh overshadowing Wells Fargo

By Jason SobelMay 1, 2013, 10:28 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It was exactly 10:47 a.m. on Wednesday when metaphors started falling from the sky.

Since this tournament’s inception a decade ago – first as the Wachovia Championship, then as the Quail Hollow Championship, now as the Wells Fargo Championship – it has earned a reputation as one of the best annual spots on the PGA Tour schedule. Good fields, good course, good weather. What’s not to like?

And then this week happened.

More to the point, it hasn’t even happened yet.

Before the first official shot was even struck this week, the event was hampered by a weakened field (only one top-10 player is here); an epidemic of withdrawals (nine and counting so far); patchy, brownish greens (new ones will be installed next week); and a long-awaited procedural announcement (Vijay Singh getting off scot-free after admitting to using a banned substance).

As if that wasn’t enough, at 10:47 a.m., with the weather forecast calling for a zero percent chance of rain throughout the day … it started raining.

In the metaphor game, that’s equivalent to a hole-in-one.

“It’s like that old saying,” explained Gary Woodland. “Crap happens.”

Or like another old saying: When it rains, it pours – at least figuratively. Seemingly nothing has gone right for this event so far. Just a week ago, past champion Tiger Woods decided to skip it, citing scheduling issues that included him taking a three-week break after the Masters. That may indeed be true, but it hasn’t quelled rumors that the inconsistent putting surfaces likewise swayed his decision.

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He’s not the only one, either. Eight other players have bowed out of the field, listing nagging injuries and the always popular “personal reasons,” despite rampant scuttlebutt that a desire to not compete on these greens fueled these moves.

In a tournament usually replete with elite studs, it’s telling that every player subject to the reshuffle – which is to say, every Q-School and Web.com graduate from a year ago – was able to get into this week’s field.

Not that the event is totally devoid of any star power.

“I just think we should cut the tournament a little bit of slack,” Phil Mickelson said. “It’s not that big of a deal. It should not affect scoring at all. I think we’ll make more 20- and 30-footers because we can be aggressive, and we might miss more short ones, but it shouldn’t affect scoring overall.”

“Right now, it may be taking away from the tournament,” added Bubba Watson. “But I think when the first ball is struck, when you start seeing names on the leaderboard, nobody is going to be thinking about anything else going on. It will be history. The tournament is going to be the story.”

If nothing else, consider this week’s edition of the Wells Fargo Championship – well, at least the days leading up to the tournament rounds – a victim of the ongoing news cycle. When there’s no golf being played, something else has to make headlines.

“You know, in the age that you guys [in the media] have to talk about something 24 hours a day,” Joe Ogilvie explained, “you’ve got to come up with something.”

“Once the tournament starts, I think all of that stuff will stop and it will be about the tournament, about the shots and the scoring,” said Mickelson. “We’ll see what’s made this tournament great in the past and it won’t be an issue. But I think leading up it will be the talk, because we haven’t had the actual action to discuss yet.”

“One thing I’ve realized is that there’s always a new story,” Trevor Immelman added. “There’s a new story every week. Just when you think you’re going to be able to latch onto something and wear it out for a few months, something else happens. It’s amazing to me. I think it’s just one of those things that we work through and next week there will be another story.”

The pre-tournament issues may be leaving a black eye on the run-up to the event, but the 156 players who are still here contend that it’s only temporary.

“It’s a little bit of a bummer to see some of the guys who have left and a lot of things that distract from the tournament,” Brendan Steele said, “but I think once we tee it up [Thursday], it will be a really good show.”

“This is one of the best weeks of the year,” Woodland said. “Unfortunately, they’ve had a little mishap with the greens. I don’t think it will affect it going forward. This is one of the best stops we have. It’s great for families, a great city and a great host.”

If you’re wondering, yes, there is rain in the forecast during the tournament. Perhaps it would be another fitting metaphor if it unexpectedly stays away, the skies clearing as another significant edition of this event comes into view.

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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

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Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”

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Rory almost channels Tiger with 72nd-hole celebration

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:11 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy’s final putt at the Arnold Palmer Invitational felt awfully familiar.

He rolled in the 25-footer for birdie and wildly pumped his fist, immediately calling to mind Woods’ heroics on Bay Hill’s 18th green.

Three times Woods holed a putt on the final green to win this event by a stroke.

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McIlroy was just happy to provide a little extra cushion as the final group played the finishing hole.

“I’ve seen Tiger do that enough times to know what it does,” McIlroy said. “So I just wanted to try and emulate that. I didn’t quite give it the hat toss – I was thinking about doing that. But to be able to create my own little bit of history on the 18th green here is pretty special.”

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McIlroy remembers Arnie dinner: He liked A-1 sauce on fish

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 1:06 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Fresh off a stirring victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory McIlroy offered a pair of culinary factoids about two of the game’s biggest names.

McIlroy regretted not being able to shake Palmer’s hand behind the 18th green after capping a three-shot win with a Sunday 64, but with the trophy in hand he reflected back on a meal he shared with Palmer at Bay Hill back in 2015, the year before Palmer passed away.

“I knew that he liked A-1 sauce on his fish, which was quite strange,” McIlroy said. “I remember him asking the server, ‘Can I get some A-1 sauce?’ And the server said, ‘For your fish, Mr. Palmer?’ He said, ‘No, for me.’”

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A few minutes later, McIlroy revealed that he is also a frequent diner at The Woods Jupiter, the South Florida restaurant launched by Tiger Woods. In fact, McIlroy explained that he goes to the restaurant every Wednesday with his parents – that is, when he’s not spanning the globe winning golf tournaments.

Having surveyed the menu a few times, he considers himself a fan.

“It’s good. He seems pretty hands-on with it,” McIlroy said. “Tuna wontons are good, the lamb lollipops are good. I recommend it.”

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DeChambeau comes up short: 'Hat’s off to Rory'

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 12:48 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Amid a leaderboard chock full of big names and major winners, the person that came closest to catching Rory McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational turned out to by Bryson DeChambeau.

While Henrik Stenson faltered and Justin Rose stalled out, it was DeChambeau that gave chase to McIlroy coming down the stretch at Bay Hill. Birdies on Nos. 12 and 13 were followed by an eagle out of the rough on No. 16, which brought him to within one shot of the lead.

But as DeChambeau surveyed his birdie putt from the fringe on the penultimate hole, McIlroy put an effective end to the proceedings with a closing birdie of his own to polish off a round of 64. DeChambeau needed a hole-out eagle on No. 18 to force a playoff, and instead made bogey.

That bogey ultimately didn’t have an effect on the final standings, as DeChambeau finished alone in second place at 15 under, three shots behind McIlroy after shooting a 4-under 68.

“I thought 15 under for sure would win today,” DeChambeau said. “Rory obviously played some incredible golf. I don’t know what he did on the last nine, but it was deep. I know that.”

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

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DeChambeau will collect $961,000 for his performance this week in Orlando, just $47,000 less than he got for winning the John Deere Classic in July. While he would have preferred to take McIlroy’s spot in the winner’s circle, DeChambeau was pleased with his effort in Sunday’s final pairing as he sets his sights on a return to the Masters.

“For him to shoot 64 in the final round, that’s just, hat’s off to him, literally. I can’t do anything about that,” DeChambeau said. “I played some great golf, had some great up-and-downs, made a couple key putts coming down the stretch, and there’s not really much more I can do about it. My hat’s off to Rory, and he played fantastic.”