McIlroy contending despite quadruple-bogey

By Jason SobelMay 31, 2012, 6:02 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – You can watch plenty of elite golfers compete in plenty of tournaments without ever witnessing the scene that unfolded Thursday morning on the 12th hole at Muirfield Village.

With his tee shot on the par-3, Rory McIlroy found the back-left greenside bunker, which doesn’t sound too awful until you consider the severe downhill slope on the green running away from him and toward an adjacent creek. Uncharacteristically, though perhaps not surprisingly, McIlroy’s bunker shot hit the green, then kept rolling … and rolling … and rolling … all the way into the water hazard.

And so, with no acceptable place from which to take a drop, the world’s second-ranked player instead took a stroll all the way back to the front teebox, stopping only to inquire of a golf writer: “Do you see a drop zone over there?”

(Note to aspiring professional golfers: If you ever need to know where a drop zone is, consult a golf writer.)

A drop, a chunked wedge, another bunker pitch and two putts later, McIlroy trudged off the hole – just his third of the Memorial Tournament opening round – with an unsightly quadruple-bogey. The rest of his opening nine holes didn’t go much better. He made back-to-back birdies, but also lost two more balls in the water en route to a 3-over 39.

It was almost enough to sound the alarms from across the pond. Coming off consecutive missed cuts at The Players Championship and the BMW PGA Championship – flagship events on the PGA Tour and European Tour, respectively – McIlroy has been hearing critical whispers about his dedication to the craft.

He isn’t working hard enough. He’s spreading himself too thin by playing both tours. He’s spending too much time globetrotting with his tennis pro girlfriend.

This is a classic case of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story. The facts are that his work ethic is what elevated him to his current status; he’s been traversing the globe playing competitive tournaments since he was a teenager; and being in love has never directly correlated to making bogeys.

Instead, McIlroy is a victim of the 'superstar conundrum,' which can be clearly defined thusly: The more success someone earns, the more scrutiny he receives for not earning even more success. Consider it the ultimate Catch-22 for anyone who has achieved certain accomplishments in his given field.

“I think that is the way of life in anything if you're in the spotlight, you're in the public eye,” McIlroy said. “If I'd have missed two cuts in a row a couple years ago, no one would have batted an eyelid, but nowadays it's a little different.”

No golfer – heck, perhaps no athlete in the world – has been the subject of as much armchair analysis over the last few years as Tiger Woods, who understands what McIlroy has been enduring as of late.

“Obviously the criticism or scrutiny is because he's been so consistent over the last six, eight months,” said Woods, who posted an opening-round 2-under 70. “He's not just playing in the States. He's not just playing in Europe. He's playing all over the world, and he's playing at a high level for a very long time. People's expectations obviously are increased.”

As part of the conundrum, Rory was on the verge of facing even more scrutiny with his third straight missed cut after those opening nine holes, except he quelled any speculation nearly before it ever began, posting a 4-under 32 on the course’s front side – his second nine of the day – to somewhat miraculously shoot a 1-under 71 that left him five shots off first-round leader Scott Stallings.

The clear turning point came on the par-5 fifth hole. Just moments after impact on his drive, McIlroy shouted, “Fore left!” and pointed in that general vicinity. As it turned out, his ball wasn’t very far off line, hanging up in the left rough. Two shots later, he was chipping in for an eagle that minutes earlier had seemed as unlikely as posting an under-par score did following that quadruple-bogey.

“After the last few weeks, I was just like, here we go again,” he said. “But I hung in there well, am proud of myself for the way I just fought back. To finish the round under par I thought was a really good effort.”

Therein lies the reason for the scrutiny, the entire principle behind the 'superstar conundrum.' The expectations placed on McIlroy are based on the fact that with a U.S. Open triumph and five other professional victories, he deserves them. It’s the very reason why players who have achieved lesser amounts of success aren’t as heavily criticized.

On Thursday, he proved once again that critical analysis is hardly a deterrent of success. If McIlroy can claim the title come Sunday, he may not be the first player with a quadruple-bogey on his card to win, but he most certainly would be the first whose week commenced with a long walk back to the teebox after his second shot on a par-3 hole.

Just call it the ultimate comeback.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

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.

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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."