Debate over McIlroy's game continues in Houston

By Jason SobelMarch 28, 2013, 10:47 pm

HUMBLE, Texas – Usually we journalists have to go searching for a story. Sometimes the story bumps into us.


I was walking through Redstone Golf Club, watching Rory McIlroy stumble to a 1-over 73 in the Shell Houston Open first round, when I ran into a pair of local golf fans who were both pretty knowledgeable about the young superstar, but owned totally dissenting viewpoints.

Optimistic Ollie and Pessimistic Pete are vocal and passionate about what’s going on with McIlroy and how it may affect him going forward. Armed with a few cold beverages – Ollie’s was half-full; Pete’s was half-empty – the two of them debated for 18 holes while I let my tape recorder take it all in.

Shell Houston Open: Articles, videos and photos

Video: McIlroy's up-and-down Round 1

OO: “Y’all are constantly analyzing this boy to the point where when he hits a good shot he’s terrific and when he hits a poor one he’s terrible. This ain’t air traffic control – he doesn’t need to be perfect all the time. Let him be.”

PP: “Hey, that’s his problem, not my problem. If he didn’t want to be analyzed so much, he should have thought about that before winning a few majors by eight strokes! We’re supposed to hold great players to higher standards, just like they’re supposed to hold themselves to higher standards. Answer this for me: What does Tiger Woods always say his main goal is before every tournament?”

OO: “Oh, this isn’t about…”

PP: “Oh, yes, it is! Tiger always says his main goal is to get a W. Yup, a win. That’s all that matters. Well, you know what Rory said his main goal was coming into this week?”

OO: “I have a feeling you’re going to tell me.”

PP: “I have the exact quote right here: ‘I guess getting into contention is the main goal, try to have a chance to win on Sunday.’ I guess?! Contention?! He sounds like a player who hopes he can win rather than one who knows he can win.”

OO: “Hold on a sec, here. Since when is Rory supposed to be the next Tiger?”

PP: “Since he won two majors by eight shots before he could shave!”

OO: “That’s funny – almost. But I’ve always likened Rory’s ups and downs to those of Phil Mickelson instead. When he’s hot, he’s hot; when he’s not, he’s not. He’s never going to be a consistent performer like Luke Donald or Matt Kuchar. You remember when he missed three straight cuts last May, don’t you?”

PP: “I sure do. He was awful.”

OO: “And you remember what happened after that, don’t you?”

PP: “Well, uh…”

OO: “Allow me to remind you. Three months later, he won the PGA Championship. Then he followed by winning three of his next eight starts and taking Player of the Year honors on both major tours. So instead of doggin’ the guy, slow your roll, as the kids his age say.”

PP: “No, you’re right. He’s a tremendous player. Which makes me so angry to walk that front nine today and watch him play like a 6-handicap.”

OO: “Whoa. Easy on us 6-handicaps…”

PP: “He was on the right side of the fairway, just 147 yards out on No. 2, but airmailed the green and made bogey. Great players don’t do that! And on the eighth – the par-5 eighth, no less – he flared one into the drink and made double. I mean, who doubles a par 5?”

OO: “OK, but then what? Did ya fall asleep at the turn? Great players understand how to keep rounds from getting away and that’s what he did.”

PP: “Yeah, I’m just surprised his tooth wasn’t hurting him today …”

OO: “Your tooth is gonna be hurting once I smack some sense into you. Since you seem to have forgotten, I’ll remind you that he birdied three of the next four holes to get back to even par.”

PP: “And then he bogeyed the next one!”

OO: “And then he birdied the next one!”

PP: “Hey, maybe he’d be more consistent if he didn’t go chasing the big bucks by signing with Nike. I’m no statistician, but breaking down the numbers, here’s my professional conclusion: Before Nike, he was really good. Ever since, not so much.”

OO: “Oh, come on. His specs are exactly the same as before. Maybe the new ball spins a little more at times or a little less at times, but don’t give me the whole “Nike’s equipment is inferior” bunk. Seems to be working alright for Tiger. Russell Henley and Thorbjorn Olesen have won this year, too. And next time Rory wins, I bet you’ll be the first guy putting new swoosh gear in your bag!”

PP: “Sure, but who knows when that will be?”

OO: “Well…”

PP: “Oh, don’t tell me you really think…”

OO: “But I do…”

PP: “You can’t…”

OO: “I can. I’m picking him to win the Masters.”

PP: “That’s funny. I don’t remember you walking around with a blindfold on all day, but you must not have seen everything I did.”

OO: “I saw everything I needed to see. His swing looks good, his putting is coming around and he’s working out all the kinks. With two weeks to go before Opening Day at Augusta National, he’ll be primed and ready for major No. 3.”

PP: “You sound like one of those cheesy Masters promos. But hey, just to prove I’m not all negative about our boy, I like him there, too.”

OO: “You think he’s going to win.”

PP: “Win? Haha, no. But he’s got a hell of a chance to make the cut – if that tooth isn’t hurting too much. Now let’s go grab another drink. Mine is half-empty already.”

OO: “OK, but I’m good. Still half-full here.”

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship

With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”