Donald, McIlroy, Westwood struggle on Day 1

By Jason SobelJune 15, 2012, 3:28 am

SAN FRANCISCO – The world’s three top-ranked golfers exchanged halfhearted handshakes and sheepish smiles on the final green at Olympic Club, then let out a collective sigh as they trudged up the makeshift stairs to sign their scorecards – professional golf’s version of a death march if there ever was one.

There is nothing random about U.S. Open tee times. There is no computer-generated software that spits out player permutations, no dart-throwing, coin-flipping or picking out of a hat.

To refer to any specific group as divine intervention is to call the USGA divine, as the organizing committee intervenes in order to proffer the most entertaining – or enigmatic or eclectic – trios over the first two rounds of its annual grindfest.

And so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood found themselves sharing a tee time, the first three names atop the Official World Golf Ranking side by side by side in a physical sense, too.


Video: Disastrous start for big names


What should come as a surprise is how they fared in the opening round of the 112th edition of the event.

Donald posted a 9-over 79; McIlroy shot a 7-over 77; and Westwood carded a 3-over 73.

To paraphrase an old John Lennon line, it was instant carnage right from the beginning. The group tallied two bogeys and a double on the opening hole and failed to recover during the remainder of the round.

Their combined total of 19 over par may not sound too ghastly on a day when only a half-dozen competitors broke par, but check out the world’s top three in comparison to some other, well, less ballyhooed triumvirates:

• Shane Bertsch, Tommy Biershenk and Martin Flores – all little-known PGA Tour pros – beat them by five strokes.

• Marc Warren, Michael Allen and Anthony Summer – a European Tour regular, a Champions Tour regular and a former toilet cleaner – beat them by nine.

• Scott Langley, Steve Lebrun and Beau Hossler – two fringe pros and a 17-year-old amateur – beat them by 10.

• Jason Bohn, Rafael Jacquelin and Jae-Bum Park – three pros with varying degrees of moderate success – beat them by 17.

That’s right, golf fans. If you had Bohn, Jacquelin and Park giving 16 strokes in the opening round against the world’s three top-ranked players, congratulations. You’re a winner.

All together, Donald, McIlroy and Westwood totaled 20 bogeys and a double – against just three birdies for the day.

“Well, the top three in the world and we make three between us,” said Donald, who didn’t contribute a single birdie. “It shows how tough it is. There aren't that many opportunities out there.”

The world’s top-ranked player, Donald forged a symmetrical round of nine pars and nine bogeys. It marked the seventh straight time he opened a U.S. Open with a score in the 70s – and that was only thanks to a pair of pars to close. The stat of the day from Olympic? Andy Zhang, at 14 years old the youngest competitor in tournament history, tied the man with No. 1 next to his name.

“The U.S. Open, the margins are that much smaller and if you're just a little bit off, which I was today, it's tough,” Donald admitted. “And then you have to really rely on chipping it close and making some putts and I didn't do that. My putter kind of went cold today, otherwise I could have probably ground out some more respectable score. But this place is tough. I feel like even from yesterday it got a lot tougher and I didn't hit the shots when I needed to.”

In his title defense after cruising to an eight-stroke victory a year ago at Congressional, McIlroy didn’t fare much better. After compiling just four over-par individual hole totals last year, he doubled that number on Thursday, with eight bogeys against just a lone birdie.

“It was a combination of things,” he said afterward. “You hit your first shot out of position. It's hard to get your second shot back into position. If you hit one bad shot on any of the holes, it's very hard to recover from that. And that's what I found today.”

For his part, Westwood may be getting unfairly lumped in with the poor play of his partners. His 73 was actually more than two full strokes below the field scoring average for the round, and after starting with a double bogey on the first, he played the final 17 holes in just 1 over.

Still, he was at least an eyewitness to the carnage if not an outright contributor. The halfhearted handshakes, the sheepish smiles, the collective sighs – they were all the result of a long, unsatisfying day that left the world’s top three players trudging off the course when it was finally complete.

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.